How to Travel With a Herniated Disc


Back pain is debilitating. It can stop you from performing many of your normal routines and activities. A herniated disc is either a rupture or a bulge of the intervertebral disc in your spine. If you have a herniated disc and need to travel on an airplane, you may be concerned with how you will tolerate the trip and whether you will worsen you condition. If you prepare and plan ahead, you should be able to make the trip without increasing your pain and stiffness when you arrive.

Things You'll Need

  • Emergency gel cold packs
  • Medicated back rub cream
  • NAISDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Neck pillow
  • Rolling carry-on

Get a doctors note for your condition and any medications, creams, or gel packs you may need on the trip that could trigger a problem with airport security. You may not need this but it is better to have it than to have your items confiscated at the airport terminal.

Pack a carry-on that is light and has wheels. Make sure the handle is long enough for you to roll the bag without having to bend. Be sure to place your pain medication, cold packs, travel pillow, and medicated cream in the bag and in a spot that is easily accessible. It may be best to place these items in a smaller bag such as a shaving or make-up bag to keep them all together.

Take a dose of pain medication before you head to the airport. You will be doing a lot of walking and perhaps some lifting, so you want to be pain-free, or as close to it as possible.

Get a porter to take your luggage through the check-in procedures. You may be able to use your doctors note to get through lines quicker and avoid long periods of standing and carrying your belongings.

Go to the bathroom prior to boarding. You want to prevent needing to squeeze in airplane bathrooms as much as possible.

Request a seat with lots of leg-room and is on the aisle. You will want to be able to stand and stretch throughout the flight and will not want to climb over your neighbor.

Board the plane at the time designated for those who need extra time and assistance. Your doctor's note should be able to get you through without being questioned. When on the plane, ask a flight attendant for assistance in stowing your bag, if it needs to be placed in the overhead compartment. Do not lift it yourself! Before you stow the bag, remove the bag that has your medicine, gel packs, and cream and place it in the pouch in front of you for easy access.

Sit with the pillow around your neck and an airplane pillow behind your lumbar region. Maintain good posture to prevent compression on your spine.

Stand and walk frequently when you are allowed to.

Use your gel packs and medicated cream as needed to reduce pain and stiffness.

After landing find a porter to help you claim your bags and arrange for travel to your hotel.

Go for a walk after you check in to your hotel. This will loosen your back and prevent stiffness from settling in.

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