Since sciatica symptoms often affect hips, thighs, and legs, spending extended periods in one position can be painful, as is often the case when traveling. For most people, it’s difficult to avoid triggering discomfort that can range from pins and needles sensations to sharp, distracting pain. While there is no way to guarantee a pain-free journey to your destination, there are things you can do to be better prepared as you travel.
1. Administer Heat or Ice
Temperature-based treatment is one of the most reliable remedies for sciatica. Heat eases muscle soreness and stimulates receptors in tissues near the affected nerve, which changes how the brain interprets pain. Ice works by desensitizing tissues and reducing inflammation. Fortunately, there are several ways to apply heat or cold to sore spots while you’re traveling. Possible options include:
- Portable or rechargeable heat packs
- Topical heat creams or rubs
- Cooling creams or gels
- Packs you can fill with ice during stops
Note: Disposable heat and ice packs are not permitted on airplanes.
2. Ease Your Luggage Load
Carrying heavy luggage and bags can place stress on your spine. The added burden may put extra pressure on the sciatic nerve that starts in the lower back and continues downward. If possible, ship most of your luggage ahead of time, at least the heavy bags. Take a light carry-on with your essentials.
If it’s not practical to ship your luggage, opt for smaller bags and avoid making any of them too heavy, or consider taking luggage with wheels. Your risk of sciatica pain can also be reduced by watching how much stuff you put in your purse, backpack, shopping bags, or anything else you may end up lugging around while traveling.
3. Find Opportunities to Stretch or Move
Sitting tends to trigger sciatica symptoms more so than standing because this is when pressure is placed on the muscles that support the spine. If you’re driving, try to find places to stop so you can get out of the car and stretch now and then. A specially designed sciatica pillow may also provide some extra relief if you’ll be doing most or all of the driving.
If you need an excuse to get up when flying, walk to the bathroom when you start to feel pain. Also, let the airline know ahead of time that you’ll need room to move or stretch so you can get a seat by the aisle. When you do have to sit while driving or flying, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground with your knees at a right angle to minimize stress on your lower back.
Managing sciatica when you travel can also involve scheduling a trip to your doctor or a Los Angeles back surgeon before you go. Discuss how you well you’re managing your pain and determine if there are any other steps you may be able to take to minimize triggers. Also, consider ordering refills on prescriptions before you leave so you’ll have immediate access to your medications if you need them.
Sciatica and other conditions affecting the spine sometimes require the need for minimally invasive surgery. At The Spine Institute Center, we specialize in a wide variety of spinal procedures, from traditional fusion surgery to Mobi-C disc replacement. Los Angeles residents can trust in Dr. Bae and his team of expert surgeons. If you’d like to schedule an in-person evaluation, call our office at 310-828-7757 today.