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Airplane Seat Solutions

May, 2014

A Stretchsit cushion helps fill the unhealthy
C shape found in many airplane seats, or
even better, facilitates gently
stretching the spine.

The summer is upon us and many of us will be traveling in buses, boats, cars, and planes. I have spent a lot of time on planes and have observed people in discomfort all around me. The shape of airplane seats varies from airline to airline, but all of them have a curvature that forces the spine into an uncomfortable C-shape. In this season of airline travel, I’d like to share some simple tips to protect the spine and reduce muscle tension during an airplane flight. 

1) Fill the C

The concave shape of airline seats puts pressure on the spinal discs and is the starting point for muscle tension. Fill the lower part of your seat with pillows, blankets, sweaters, or ideally a Stretchsit® Cushion to create a flat plane along which you can lengthen your spine. 

A seated hip hinge helps bypass the poor
design of some airplane seats.


2) Hiphinge Forward

You can avoid the C-shape altogether by hiphinging forward. Use your hands to support your head with your elbows resting on the open tray. You can adjust the placement and height of your hands to provide a gentle stretch in the neck.


Another possible variation for keeping
your spine healthy 
during a flight.

3) Support Your Head

One of the best ways to rest or sleep on a flight is to lengthen your spine and support your head against the seat in front of you. If you are lucky enough to be in a window seat, you can find even more support in the corner between the seat in front of you and the wall of the airplane. This technique works especially well for taller individuals, who can adjust the placement of their heads to allow the spine to stretch and relax even in cramped spaces. Be sure to use a Stretchsit cushion, blanket, pillow, or sweater to cushion your head.

Here’s wishing you safe and comfortable travels.

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I used my Stretch-sit cushion. It was a life saver on a ten hour flight. Thank you so much! I will try the head rest on the seat infront of me on my way to CA from Hawaii. :-)

Great to hear!

On the rare occasion when I check my Stretchsit cushion in with my luggage accidentally, I squirm in my seat. That's when I redouble my resolve that one day our tribe will influence the airline companies to change their bent. I know they have to economize on space and fit as many people on the plane as possible, but it wouldn't take any more space to fit people in good shape than in bad shape! One day, sense will prevail...

Air New Zealand could be a good airline to start with. They innovated the SkyCouch option in Economy cabin http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/product-review-air-new-zealand-economy-skycouch.html?id=12598588 on long-haul flights (every flight is a long-haul from New Zealand!). Their engineers are pretty open to innovation. 

I am excited that you are taking up this subject as I suffer much from wrong seats. I am 150 cm "tall", love to travel but have such a hard time in all means of public transportation, especially airplanes. The sitting pads are too long for my short upper legs, so that the knees are not bent properly, the feet do not reach the ground, the back is bent painfully and the head pushed forward. On my next visit to the US (by plane...) I will buy your cushion! Your tips in the newsletter are invaluable!

Thank you, Elisabeth Schmid

Elizabeth, try adding an extra layer of padding (a folded blanket?) behind the Stretchsit cushion. I do this in rental cars for a different reason, namely that the "bolsters" (those side panels along the sides of the seat) otherwise push my shoulders forward.

And btw, we do ship the cushion abroad. Thanks to the International Flat Rate boxes, the shipping rates are not exorbitant...

Good luck!

Great to hear this recommendation about using the seat in front of you. I've done this for years just as a way to make myself confortable, not realizing it was actually helpful for my spine! Always appreciate these tips and insights!

Noni Kaufman

Austin, TX


A trick that worked for me was to fold the airline cushion in half and put it against my spine just below the should blades. I can hiphinge and then stretchsit against the cushion then and my back is supported much better. Survived a long trip to India this way.


I'm in the Frankfurt airport on my way to Lisbon. Forgot to pull out one of my Stretchsit cushions from checked baggage. Was resigned to using my jacket for stretchsitting support, but the plane was cold and I needed both my jacket and airline blanket for cover. Very happily remembered this comment - folded in two, the airline cushion served me very well indeed - both for stretchsitting and as a pillow on Brian's lap. Thanks!!

I just had my most comfortable Atlantic crossing ever in May.  I hung the cushion from the B-777 seat's headreast and never had any back pain.  I also attached a grounding wire from me to the metal under my seat. No discomfort and no jet lag in either direction.  The cushion and the "Earthing" wiring will be with me on every trip from now on.

I’m intrigued to learn about using an earthing wire on a plane to reduce or eliminate jet lag? Can you tell me more please or point me in any directions on where/how you learned about that? And what kind of wire you used, that is allowed to be brought on the plane? When I google it I don’t come across anything specific to the use you’ve mentioned.

I use a cervical collar (http://www.cvs.com/shop/product-detail/Cervical-Collar?skuId=792521) as a neck pillow when flying as it keeps my head in place while I sleep. A light scarf can also cover the collar if you're self conscious about wearing one in public. I sleep wonderfully using this method. What are your thoughts on wearing a cervical collar? Any downsides?  

I think this is super clever. I've been toying with the idea of using a neck collar as a training device for neck lengthening. If a collar can do double duty, somuch the better! Does this particular neck collar offer that kind of "guidance?" You are stimulating me to begin this experiment...if anyone else out there has a neck collar they like, please do weigh in here.

I use this one:


It's inflatable and therefore very adjustable … and easy to take with me.

It won't last as long as a solid one, but it's very inexpensive.

So far, I've only used it for neck pain, but now that you've mentioned
neck-lengthening training, I think I'll try that too.


@joanhitlin - Thank you for the link to the inflatable neck collar - it has been a lifesaver!  I have been suffering with a pinched nerve in my neck for over a month. Nothing relieved it and it was too painful to do the exercises, stretches, etc. that had been recommended. I was in so much pain this weekend that I was wondering how I would be able to keep working. I saw your post on Sunday and wondered if the collar would help release the nerve, so I ordered it with Amazon Prime shipping and got it on Tuesday after work. I put on the collar and carefully pumped it up. I could feel the nerve release and the pain go away!  I left the collar on for 15 minutes and the took it off. I still had some pain, but nothing like the pain I had before putting it on. I used it twice more before I went to bed. I woke up with some pain, but the collar relived it and I went to work. I was relatively pain-free until mid-afternoon. When I got home this evening I used the collar again, and the pain is almost completely gone again. I also have Dr. Gokhale's book, and am working through it to improve my posture. Until I used the collar, I had little hope that I would ever be pain-free again. I can't thank you enough for sharing!

I find the air pillow packing material works great and adjusts to shifting positions.

Getting Back to Esther's original post. I just returned to Australia from Hawaii, a 10 1/2 hour flight. I was fortunate to have an isle seat. This works well for me as it allows me to get up easily to stretch often without disturbing the people sitting next to me. I had my stretch-sit cushion placed on my seat back  to support and give my back a nice stretch for the long hall.

I was sitting in the middle section of a full flight. There were two young girls sitting next to me and a young couple in front of me. They were all wiggling about during the flight trying to find a way to get some rest and feel comfortable. They would go from slumping to contorting their bodies sideways, pulling their legs up and sort of getting into a fetal position. I was happy to sit up right and relaxed for most of the trip as the cushion made it comfortable. When I did want to rest, I remembered this post.  I put the tray down, hinged forward, placed my elbows on the tray with my hands on either side of my head allowing my chin to rest in the palms. I then rested my head against the seat in front of me using my sweater against the seat to add a bit more comfort. I was relaxed and very much at ease...However, the girl in front of me kept moving and jiggling the seat that I was leaning on. She was so desperate to get comfortable, she couldn't sit still. I was relaxed enough to go with this movement. But I felt bad for her. I dosed off and upon waking from my little rest noticed her partner was mimicking me using his neck pillow against the seat in front of him. He looked very comfortable. I was happy to be able to influence at least one person. I wanted to get up and share this information with everyone on the plane! Maybe next time. I felt great after the flight no stiffness or pain. :-)

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For those who have to fly long distances, it's really uncomfortable.  One of the best ways to rest or sleep on a flight is to straighten your spine Quick Draw and rest your head against the seat in front of you.

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