The Perils of Travelling: Why Airplanes Cause Sciatica Pain

I just recently returned from a visit to Washington DC. It had been the first time in a while that I travelled with heavy checked luggage (carrying books and clothes for a friend). Thus, I had forgotten all the ways airline travel could cause piriformis muscle pain.

airplanes cause sciatica pain

When I checked my ginormous suitcase, it was over 60lbs, so I had to remove some of the stuff and put into my backpack carry-on. So there I was, with a 50lb suitcase and a 25lb backpack, lugging them on and off the airport shuttles, subways, buses until I reached my final destination in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of DC.
Sure enough, my piriformis was in pain the next day because of all that lifting, jerking, and additional weight on my back.
MISTAKE #1 – Not using my rolling carry-on with wheels. I thought I would be smart and only have my backpack carry-on plus the checked luggage. I had originally packed a roller carry-on, but was able to shift some stuff around to just have the backpack and large suitcase. What I should have done was leave the backpack at home and instead use the roller carry-on.
MISTAKE #2 – Bringing a heavy suitcase in the first place! If you can, avoid bringing any heavy suitcases and instead pack light. In this case I had volunteered to bring lots of heavy items for a friend. I wish now I would have just mailed them UPS or not brought them at all, because my piriformis pain made me less able to enjoy walking around DC.
A friend’s father that has severe sciatica pain has a little trick he uses when he travels; he wears as many layers of clothes as possible so his luggage is light! Although he probably gets hot and uncomfortable, at least he’s not in pain the next few days! I prefer just packing light to begin with.

In addition to my mistakes on my last trip, here are a few more tips about travelling and keeping your piriformis syndrome pain away:
If you’re going to be travelling, be sure to get up and stretch every hour or so. Sitting in that cramped airline seat can not only make you claustrophobic, but also put lots of pressure on your spine. Having good back posture also helps.
Also, don’t forget to do your normal stretches & exercises even when you’re travelling. I know it’s hard to do when visiting friends, relatives, and other cities, but you need to keep doing them to stay pain free.
If you’re going to a city where you’re going to be walking a bunch, wear proper walking shoes. Avoid wearing sandals, heels, or any shoes without ample cushioning.
I’m travelling again in a few weeks, and for the sake of my piriformis syndrome, I can guarantee I’m not going to make the same mistakes again!