Health Beat: Sitting Without Pain on Long Flights

With airlines packing more people into their planes (one new seat in development, the SkyRider, has passengers half-crouching with just 23 inches of space between rows in coach), it helps to know some smart ways to relieve stress on your body while sitting in flight. Esther Gokhale, a wellness expert and author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back (, offers the following tips for surviving the long haul.

Fill the C. The concave shape of airline seats puts pressure on spinal discs and creates muscle tension. Fill the lower part of your seat with pillows, blankets or sweaters to create a flat plane along which you can sit back and lengthen your spine.

Flop forward. Use your hands to support your head on either side, with elbows resting on your open seat tray. Adjust the placement and height of your hands to provide a gentle, restorative stretch in your back.

Work the corner. For long flights, try to book a window seat. The best way to rest or sleep en route in this circumstance, says Gokhale, is to place your forehead in the corner between the seat in front of you and the wall of the plane while assuming the "flop forward" position with cradling hands and propped elbows.