Planes Trains and Automobiles: Travel Healthy: part three

Part three- Seat Adjustments:


Bring your seatback and tray table into their upright and locked position.

Not that you would notice it was back.


If you have been on an airplane in the last few years you probably have noticed that airplane seats are not completely designed for the human body. When originally designing airplane seats the engineers incorrectly measured average hip width to determine seat width. Many of the world’s population the widest part of the body is the shoulder width. No wonder you literally are rubbing shoulders with your neighbor. This, along with seats becoming narrower and closer together means we are bound to a small space for the duration of the flight. Even the upfront, expensive seats, although provide more wiggle room do not fit all body types. So, if you do not fit, how do you keep the desired posture and alignment your physical therapist has recommended?


  1. Use the pillow (when provided), folded pashmina, blanket or jacket you brought on board behind your back. If you feel your lower back is rounded place lower down to provide lumbar support. If you feel the headrest is pushing your head forward place he roll between your shoulder blades to allow your ears to now align over your shoulders.
  2. If you are too short for your feet to touch the ground when all the way back in the seat you may want to invest in a folding foot rest or after takeoff use your carryon luggage to prevent dangling and excessive pressure on the back of the thighs reducing circulation.
  3. If you are too tall. You are too tall! The best course of action is to plan and book an aisle, bulkhead or exit row seat. Difficult for the casual travel with airlines charging more for those seats. Depending on the length of the flight and your size it might be worth a few extra dollars.
  4. If you have a lower extremity injury not only the aisle or bulkhead seat is desired but think about which side keeps the involved limb towards the aisle so when the heavy carts are not coming your way you can stretch out into that space. Keep in mind people boarding a plane do not pay attention so protect the leg by keeping it clear until people are on board.
  5. If you have an upper extremity injury sensitive to jarring especially after shoulder surgery, dislocations and fractures, attempt to get a window seat with the involved side next to the window to minimize bumps form others. Bring a pillow or jacket to support and cushion the arm.
  6. Get up frequently when possible. Perform a few exercises and stretches in your seat. See recommendations under next section: preventing traveler’s thrombosis.