Air travel is one of the few things that never fails to blow my mind; no matter how many cramped seats I’ve sat in, I will never cease to be amazed. There’s something about sitting 30,000 feet above ground in a hunk of metal that gives me a thrill. Once the adrenaline from blasting towards the clouds has worn off, it’s hard to ignore how cramped the seats are and how stuffy the plane can get. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of long-haul flights (who is?), and it doesn’t help that my little plastic friend (i.e. my brace) always decides to make these flights even more uncomfortable.
I’m no expert when it comes to packing...I often resort to the “it’s better to be prepared” mantra, and essentially, pack my entire house into a suitcase. But for my brace, specifically, I’ve narrowed down the list to a few essential items. I love traveling, and have learned that I cannot let my brace get in the way of checking off all of the places on my bucket list. Here is my survival guide for long haul flights (and remember when you are 6 hours into a 12 hour flight and your brace is pinching you and you can’t fall asleep, we’re bent, not broken! :)
Walk Around and Stretch It is important - brace or no brace to keep your blood circulating. Even if this means walking up and down the aisle of the plane once or twice, I have found that movement makes a huge difference in staying as comfortable as possible on flights.
Hydrate With the high elevation, my already dry skin, especially under the brace, gets completely chapped...there are times when I resemble more of a snake than a human. I try to make a point to bring lotion, like Kiehl's Creme de Corps or Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion to put around my torso when I get off the flight and am able to take off my brace. I also suggest that you drink a ton of water to keep your body as hydrated as possible.
Comfortable Clothes Again, this applies to all people, not just scoliosis patients, but it is especially important for those with scoliosis, because it’s harder to find comfortable flight-friendly clothes for the brace. I prefer to wear high-waisted leggings or sweats and a t-shirt and sweatshirt to keep comfy.
Distract Yourself When uncomfortable, I try to distract myself. I usually bring a book (I haven’t been able to put down Little Fires Everywhere lately...the writing is STUNNING), download new games for my phone right before a trip, or try to find a good tv series/movie (one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies: “That is the name given to me, by me.” - ahh it gets me every time!). I have never been able to sleep very well on flights, but if you are able to sleep, that is also a great distraction.
Pillows To find a comfy position, I use pillows. Sometimes the airplane I’m on offers pillows, but I usually try to bring at least one pillow with me on the plane to put behind my back (I refuse to be separated from Pete, my Panda Pillow Pet). If you don’t have room for a pillow, a rolled up jacket could work well, too.
Finding a Comfortable Position The most comfortable position that I’ve found for wearing a brace is either both feet flat on the ground, or curled up in a ball, with my feet next to me. Each person has a different position that works best for them, so you just need to experiment until you find what works for you.
A Change of Clothes Sweaty, clammy clothes are not fun, and unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this the hard way. I’ve found that changing the shirt you wear under your brace can make a world of a difference - whether it’s during the flight, or even right after you land before you get to the hotel. Not only does packing extra clothes prepare you for the chance that your luggage gets lost somewhere in the mystical world of baggage claim, but changing is a nice way to freshen up.