I recently heard from a reader who was concerned about an upcoming airplane flight she had to take. Sitting was really painful for her, and she avoided it at all costs in her daily life.
However, she was about to take a 10-hour flight across the Atlantic, and wanted to know what in the world she could make it through this flight.
Here’s what I told her:
Pay attention to what happens when you sit.
I’ve found that individual people can have very different symptoms when it comes to SI joint dysfunction. For me personally, an airline seat probably wouldn’t have been too bad. I only had trouble with sitting if the seat was way too hard (like a wooden chair) or way too soft (like a dilapidated old couch). However, through my blog I have come across a lot of people who have found sitting to be painful overall.
So one suggestion I can think of is, in the time leading up to your trip, try to pay attention to specifics that can make you better worse. For example, do you do better on harder or soft surfaces? If the concern is that an airline seat might be too hard, maybe you can bring your own cushion. There is something called the Purple cushion that I haven’t tried personally, but have heard good things about.
Another thing to think about is your foot placement. Are things better or worse if your feet are close together, or far apart? Maybe you can identify certain positions that seem to lessen the load on your SI joints.
I know these might seem like small things, but sometimes, becoming aware of multiple small things can add up to changing one big thing.
I think it’s really important to keep a journal overall, of things that make you better and things that make you worse… and also things you aren’t sure about. If you keep notes, over time, maybe you can draw conclusions that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Get up and move when possible.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even though sitting can be painful, it is unlikely that you’re actually doing any damage to your SI joints, because there isn’t any force travelling through them like when you’re walking or running.
Sometimes, simply staying in one position for a long time without moving can be painful. This is because our body uses movement to boost our circulation, and increase blood flow in and out of a painful joint. When you hold still, the byproducts of inflammation end up building up a little more than they might otherwise. This can be painful, but is by no means dangerous, and doesn’t do any long-term harm to the joint. It just means your body has more chemicals to flush out when you’re up and moving around again.
Ideally, you could try to get up during the flight (any chance you have an aisle seat?) and just pretend you have to go to the bathroom a lot. (I know, easier said than done). But it might be a good way to sort of keep circulation to your SI joints up.
Note: I do think that potentially forcing yourself to sit on something really hard (like a wooden chair with no cushion at all) for 10 hours straight could have more of a negative impact on your joints themselves. But not a big comfy airline chair, which is padded.
You could also ask your doctor about something called a lidocaine patch. It’s a patch you can put right over the SI joints that releases a numbing chemical. It could potentially help you get through the flight, and doesn’t have the same side effects as taking a pill. (I personally am not against pain medication, but this reader was concerned about side effects).
Keep your glute muscles limber.
The last suggestion I had for this reader was to start stretching the muscles in the back of the hips (or the “glutes” as some people call them). Basically, I’m talking about the muscles in your butt that you literally sit on, when you’re sitting down.
I don’t think tight muscles here can necessarily be the cause of all of the pain people with SI joint dysfunction experience when sitting down, but again– every little bit helps. Keeping them loose, versus having them be tight, could still make a difference (especially when we’re talking about a 10-hour flight!). Every little bit helps.
So I pointed this reader in the direction of my posts about stretching:
Stretches for the hamstrings (also important, as they attach to the bottom of the pelvis!).
Okay, that just about sums it up.
For those of you are interested in learning more about my stretching routine, I am looking into writing some sort of an e-book. (Same for my exercises!). I know these are the topics people most want to know about, and I haven’t forgotten you!
So, that’s all for now. I hope this post was helpful!