How to Travel With a Herniated Disc

According to, a herniated disc is most commonly experienced by middle-aged individuals. This bulging, or herniation, of the gelatinous discs between the vertebrae, can cause significant pain and weakness. The symptoms are generally made worse when the individual sits or stands in the same position for a long period of time. Unfortunately, the pain from a herniated disc can prevent some individuals from traveling, either for business or pleasure. The prospect of consequences for sitting too long seems to far outweigh the goal. There are however, ways you can decrease your herniated disc discomfort while traveling.

Stretch the muscles of your upper and lower body periodically during your travel. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, sitting for long periods of time actually places a significant amount of strain on several areas of the spine. If you already have a herniated disc, this added strain means additional pain. If you're flying, stretch your shoulders and neck, gently bend forward or to each side and stretch out your legs. In addition, get up every hour or so to walk to the bathroom or the end of the cabin and do some light stretches. If you're traveling by train or car, you can easily incorporate these exercises and frequent breaks to relieve the strain on your back.

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Bring a heating pad or reusable cold and heat packs with you when you travel. If you are flying, you won't be allowed to bring these items as carry-ons, but keep them in your suitcase for use when you land. If you are experiencing spasms from sitting in the plane, apply a cold pack to the affected area for five minutes on, then five minutes off. If you have pain and possible swelling, apply something hot or warm to the area instead to relieve the inflammation. If you're traveling by another form of transportation, bring cold and heat packs with you and check with the transportation company for any restrictions on using them during your trip.

Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, when you travel. Ibuprofen won't cure your herniated disc, but it may at least make your journey more comfortable. If you have tried OTC medications and found them ineffective, talk to your doctor about your concerns. A prescription for a muscle relaxer or a stronger pain reliever may be necessary to keep you from experiencing severe pain.

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Bring a lumbar or similar back support pillow with you, and use it when you must remain seated for long periods of time. These pillows can be found in most department stores in the bedding or medical supply department and can relieve some of the strain that occurs in your back due to uncomfortable seating. If you're flying, recline your seat as much as possible, giving you some room to extend your legs slightly. Place the pillow between the affected area of your back and the back of the seat and lean against it. Some people also find that sitting on a pillow relieves pressure on the back.


Talk to your doctor before traveling with a herniated disc to discuss any precautions you need to take to prevent further damage to your back.