When you suffer from sciatica symptoms, travel can be a daunting, and painful, experience. But whether it is for work or family, long car and plane rides are sometimes unavoidable.

See Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica refers to a set of symptoms caused by an underlying lower back problem.
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The Truth About Sciatica

We can’t promise a pain-free experience, but these 3 pointers can help you manage your symptoms while traveling with sciatica:

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

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1. Carry disposable ice and/or heat packs

If you are planning a long car ride, one thing you can’t account for is a sciatica flare-up. So it’s a good idea to pack a few disposable ice and/or heat packs in order to tame your sciatica symptoms.

See Ice Packs for Back Pain Relief

The cold therapy can help alleviate your sciatica by reducing inflammation and numbing your sore tissue. The on-the-go heat therapy stimulates heat receptors in your skin, which in turn causes your brain to focus less on your sciatic pain.

See Benefits of Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain

These packs can be kept in an easy-to-reach place, such as your glove compartment. And since they are activated by chemical reactions, you won’t need a cooler full of ice or to plug anything into your cigarette lighter.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

But be aware that disposable cold and/or heat packs are not allowed on airplanes.

See Sciatica First Aid

2. Lighten your luggage load

Heavy luggage can place a large working load on your lumbar spine (lower back), which in turn may provoke sciatica symptoms like pain in your leg or numbness in your foot.

See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

To avoid unnecessary strain when traveling by air, consider shipping your luggage ahead of time. This will ensure you don’t have to lift any heavy items—and as a bonus it will keep you from having to check any luggage at the airport.

See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain

If shipping ahead of time is not an option, avoid one large suitcase and instead use several smaller ones. And, if possible, try to purchase luggage with wheels to minimize your need for carrying suitcases over long distances.

See Pain-Free Travel Tips

3. Move around when traveling with sciatica

You may be surprised to hear that sitting places more stress on your lumbar spine than standing. This means that sitting for long periods of time can make your sciatica symptoms worse.

See Hamstring Stretching Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

One simple way to help with this problem is to move around every 20 to 30 minutes. This can mean light stretching, or walking to the airplane bathroom and back.

See Hamstring Stretching Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

If you are flying, make sure to alert the crew ahead of time of your sciatica problem and your need to move around.

See Sciatica Treatment

As a bonus tip, while sitting you can minimize the pressure on your lower back by ensuring your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your knees are at a right angle. So use cruise control while driving over long distances, and adjust your seat—and bring a foot rest if necessary—when traveling by air.

See Sciatica Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

I hope all of the above advice will help minimize your sciatica symptoms—which in turn will make for a far more enjoyable traveling experience.

Learn more:

Myths About Sciatica Treatment Options

Physical Therapy and Exercise for Sciatica