The long, slow trek down the jet way revives for many the forth coming misery of your head hanging over the edge of a seat seemingly designed for a green, wire framed rubber character. The situation could be a bit more tolerable, but you’re wary of tipping your seat back and initiating a case of road rage at 35,000 feet. In an age where the car seat has evolved to fit like a glove, its aeronautical counterpart seems to have been scrounged from a Model A.
What’s the problem? In speaking with airline officials of a national carrier, their seats are designed to fit those heights between the 5th,(4’7” female from South China), and the 95th ,(6’3” North European male), percentiles. Thus by design, the top portions of the seat is designed to support the back of the head of the “average person”. The majority of us seem to be excluded from this designation however, either having the head forced downward by the superiorly located head rest, or being forced to stare at the lights because the support folds the neck backwards as though on a hinge.
There’s a second culprit lurking in this case. Years of bodily neglect plays an even greater role. We aren’t as flexible as we use to be. As children we played, now we sit. Due to the prolonged, forward hunched sitting postures that many resort to for much of the workweek, we tend to lose the ability to straighten up and conform to an airplane style seat. The inability to contour the upper trunk and neck to the seat over the course of the flight can be likened to bending a finger backwards, tolerable for the first few minutes, painful thereafter.
To get an upper hand on this battle, we need to look upon two different fronts; the seat and ourselves.
First, the seat: The early bird gets the worm in regard to on-flight pillows and blankets, so plan accordingly if you’re not bringing your own items which may include; a NADA chair (call us to find out more), medical cervical collar, inflatable neck pillow and lumbar support.
The goal is to place yourself in the optimal postural position prior to take off. Sit in the chair, close your eyes and quickly survey how your body responds to its position in the seat. With pillows, blankets or other assistive devices in you lap, begin placing them as noted below to attain the most ideal postural placement.
For those who find their heads being pushed forward and down, the torso needs to be elevated. Start the process at the feet by placing them on a solid piece of luggage. This will prevent the hips from sliding forward, which if unchecked would lower the torso and head. A rolled blanket under the thighs will also assist in the elevation process by again maintaining the hips in the rear of the seat. A third option is placing a pillow behind the lower back. This will move the torso forward, out from under the headrest. Keep your seat belt on; this will help to maintain a neutral posture as well.
For taller passengers, the goal is to extend the height of the seat. This is best achieved via an inflatable horseshoe collar. A soft cervical collar will provide even more support, especially for a head that tends to tip forward while sleeping. These can be purchased from most drug stores. Tipping the seat back also functionally lengthens the upright area of the chair. Place pillows under both elbows for better support of the shoulders. This will create less of an irritating draw on the muscles between the neck and shoulders.