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.
We can’t promise a pain-free experience, but these 3 pointers can help you manage your symptoms while traveling with sciatica:
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.
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.
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.
But be aware that disposable cold and/or heat packs are not allowed on airplanes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are flying, make sure to alert the crew ahead of time of your sciatica problem and your need to move around.
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.
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.