How to Get Rid of Stiffness After a Long Flight

Long flights can leave your body feeling achy and stiff.  Here are some tips to help prevent those effects after a long flight!

Stretching Before and After Your Flight

Stretching for at least 30 seconds is going to be key here.  Evidence has shown that 30 seconds is an effective duration for muscle tissue to retain length and enhance muscle flexibility.  You can start by stretching 2-3 times on each leg for at least 30 seconds. Feel free to increase your reps or time, depending on how tight you are.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Prolonged sitting can cause tight hip flexors which can then contribute to poor posture and back pain.

For this stretch, kneel and lean forward until a stretch is felt along the front part of your hip and thigh.  In this photo, the stretch should be felt on the right side.2

Hamstring Stretch

Tight hamstrings are also a common cause of low back pain.  There are a couple of ways to stretch your hamstrings, but this way is my favorite as it is the least stressful on your back.  You can use a towel, belt, or even a dog leash for this stretch (just make sure your pup doesn’t find out).  Make sure the leg you’re stretching is as straight as possible and bring it back until you feel a stretch on the back of your thigh & calf.


Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis is a deep muscle in your bottom that runs from your sacrum to your thigh bone.  Prolonged sitting can also cause this muscle to become tight, which can possibly result in compression of your sciatic nerve. No Bueno!

For this stretch, turn into a half pretzel like this guy below and pull your thigh towards your chest until a stretch is felt in your bottom.  In this photo, the stretch should be felt on the right side.


During Your Flight

Motion is Lotion

Motion is lotion is literally my favorite corny phrase that I am always using in the clinic.  It’s so true though! Your body is not built to remain static.  Getting up at least once an hour is going to lubricate your joints and increase blood circulation.  Walking around will also help to prevent blood clots (called deep vein thrombosis) from forming in your lower legs.  If you have a window seat, don’t be afraid to ask to get up so often! Your Health > Their Feelings. Here are a couple of simple exercises you can do in your seat to get your blood flowing until you build up the courage to ask to get up haha.

Heel/Toe Raises


Long Arc Quads

Squeeze through your thigh and extend your leg and slowly lower your leg back to starting position.


Maintain Good Posture

You can maintain good posture by making sure your neck and back are supported.  Travel neck pillows are actually great for keeping your neck in a neutral position.  Make sure your back is aligned against the back of the seat. You can also use a lumbar roll or a rolled up towel/pillow and place it behind the arch in your low back, for added support. Last, make sure your feet are firmly on the floor.  Supporting your neck and back will allow for decreased stress on your spine.

Stay Hydrated

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER!!!  Flying can leave you very dehydrated, as the humidity levels on the place are said to be drier than the Sahara desert. Dehydration can lead to dry skin, headache, fatigue, and other negative effects. Drinking plenty of water will also encourage you to MOVE out of your seat and sprint to the bathroom so it all works out in the end 🙂

Happy Travels!!!

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