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Ergonomics in Flight

Sunday, July 18, 2010
By Anne Kramer

Nowadays, air travel is a way of life. For some, flying is the preferred method of transportation when on vacation, while for others, work requires frequent trips by plane.

No matter your reason for flying, it’s likely the case you’ve experienced discomfort when travelling by air. It’s important for us flyers, especially those of us who spend more than 1 or 2 hours in a plane to take heed; this discomfort is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong.

There are a number of commonly reported flying ailments – caused by flying factors both on and off the plane – each having its own easy solution. We at decided to compile a list of solutions to the two most universal of these complaints, to help you prevent them on your next flight.

  • Back/Neck Pain: Let’s face it; the single most common reason anyone hates to fly is the discomfort associated with sitting in what usually ends up to be a hard, misshapen seat crammed into a space nary big enough to fit a child, let alone an adult. Long trips sitting in such a seat can lead to back pain, neck cramps, and leg fatigue. There are a few things that can be done however, to prevent this body pain.
    1. Take Breaks: This may sound odd, but you ought to take breaks from sitting. Just as you should get up from your desk at work to take a 2-3 minute walk around the office every 20-30 minutes, it is important to relieve your body of the strain of sitting in an airplane seat regularly. Excuse yourself from your row, get up, and walk around the cabin. It also helps the trip to go by faster!
    2. Customize Your Seat: It’s true; the seating on an airplane – with the exception of some first-class cabins – is horrendous. Don’t be a victim of poor seat design. Customize your seat!

      First, try adjusting your foot height to the appropriate level with a travel footrest. Ensuring that your feet are sitting at an appropriate height is the first step to guaranteeing proper posture.

      Next, use an inflatable back cushion. Lumbar support is not what airplane seats are famous for.

      Lastly, if you’re going to be using a laptop or portable DVD player, consider purchasing a mobile lap desk. The “drop-down trays in located in the seat in front of you” were designed for eating WELL before the laptop computer was conceived. Using these trays to support your computer can lead to wrist strain which, with repetition, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Irritation of Handling Luggage: Likely the most frustrating thing about air travel is having to handle your luggage. Lugging bags from the car to the check-in desk, and then your carry-on around the entire airport can be a real hassle. Moreover, with airlines charging customers by the number of items they check, bags are becoming heavier and heavier, leaving flyers with more and more frustration and pain associated with carrying them. Luckily many luggage manufacturers have realized this problem, and addressed it with a line of rolling luggage.

    Bags with wheels take the strain off the arms, backs, and chests of charged with carrying them through the airport. Unfortunately, this puts a new kind of stress on another body part now responsible for directing the rolling bag: the wrist.

    Many rolling bags have a convenient telescoping arm that extends from the suitcase giving the individual control over the direction of the bag. While this feature adds a degree of comfort however, it fails to do so in an ergonomic fashion. Simple straight bars force the user to grasp the bag in one of two ways, regardless of the desired direction of the suitcase: either over- or under-hand. This grip, especially when moving from side to side puts enormous stress on the wrist. Luckily there is a solution to such a problem. Ergonomic luggage handles attach to existing telescoping grips to transform their rigid design to 360 degrees of ergonomically-sound movement.
No matter what your reason for travel, make sure you’re doing your best to safeguard your ergonomic well-being; you deserve it!

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