Lonely Planet Writer

Simple ways to relax muscles and prevent them tensing up during long haul flights

If even the thoughts of a long haul flight makes your muscles tense up in anticipation … then a mid or post-journey massage may be just the thing.

A long haul flight can leave the body in need of a massage
A long haul flight can leave the body in need of a massage

Several airlines do offer on-board treatments but normally at the price of a first class ticket, which is well out of the reach of most travellers on a budget. Packing up a mobile massager in your suitcase – or carry-on luggage – could be the perfect antidote to ease the discomfort of a cramped airline seat or an unfamiliar hotel bed. One company called Moji makes small portable massagers for your feet, or for whatever part of the body happens to ail you. Their Moji Mini weighs less than half a pound, and is almost small enough to fit in a reasonably-sized handbag.

A mini massager could keep you from seizing up on a flight
A mini massager could keep you from seizing up on a flight

Helpfully, the company also provide tips on how to stay loose and avoid aches and pains during a flight. The first thing they recommend is to keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure to walk up and down the aisle at least once an hour (even if air hosts and hostesses may not thank you for it). They also suggest a list of exercises that can be done from the comfort of your seat.  These include:

Ankle turns
Lift your feet off the floor and move your toes in a circle, one foot moving clockwise and the other foot moving counterclockwise. Change direction and repeat.

Foot lifts
Place your heels on the floor and bring your toes up as high as you can. Then put both feet back flat on the floor. Then pull your heels up while keeping the balls of your feet on the floor.

Knee lifts
While keeping your knee bent, raise your leg while tensing your thigh muscle. Repeat 20 to 30 times, alternating legs.

Shoulder rolls
Raise your shoulders and then move them forward, downward and then backward in a smooth circular movement.

Arm bends
Start with your elbows on the armrests and your hands pointed forward so that your lower and upper arms make a 90-degree angle. Take turns moving your left and then your right hand toward your chest and back, and continue for 30 seconds.

Knee to chest
Bend slightly forward. Fold your hands together around your left knee and pull it toward your chest. Hold this position for 15 seconds and let your knee drop slowly. Change legs and repeat.

Homedics also offer a range of mobile massage devices, including their Ribbit massager, which comes in a variety of colours, and even lights up (although that last part may be of limited therapeutic value).

backnodger
Back trouble can flair up on long flights. Image: Back Nodger

The delightfully named Back Nodger is an ideal option if there is a particularly troublesome area of muscle causing discomfort.  According to the company, it allows you “to find and feel knots that you can’t reach with your own hands and then target them with precise pressure”. It works on the same basis as acupressure, or Shiatsu massage, targeting specific ‘trigger points’ to ease muscle tension.