Pain while flying?
October 13, 2008 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Why do I get a pain in my torso when I fly?

In recent years, whenever I fly, I gradually develop a sharp ache... it tends to be just above my stomach and off-center (on my left side yesterday, can't remember if it's ever been on the right), and the pain ranges from my front under the rib to near my spine. I can get some temporary relief by putting pressure on its location but it invariably returns. Shortly after we land, the pain subsides.

What could this be? I don't think it's a function of the cramped seating, because it happens even if no one is next to me and I can spread out a bit. It happens regardless of my diet that day, so I don't think it's a digestive issue. I may be wrong about either of these points, but my hunch is that it's something specific to air travel.

Anyone have any similar experiences and/or recommendations?
posted by Riki tiki to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like the location of your stomach (it's higher in the abdomen than one might assume). Many people experience stomach pain when flying, so that might be your starting point.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 11:37 AM on October 13, 2008

I get something similar to that - it feels something like bad heartburn. I attribute it to my (generally) poor posture when I sit in an airline seat, plus a little stress while traveling and a departure from normal eating habits. It never seems to go away on its own, though. Ignored, it tends to get pretty damned uncomfortable.

Whether it's just in my head or not, a tagamet tablet and a big glass of water usually does the trick pretty quickly.
posted by jquinby at 11:44 AM on October 13, 2008

My friend and I like to joke that we sometimes feel like the puffed up chip bags when we fly. Maybe it's like your ears, but there's no way to "pop" your stomach.
posted by natabat at 12:06 PM on October 13, 2008

but there's no way to "pop" your stomach.

posted by GuyZero at 12:12 PM on October 13, 2008

Best answer: Does it feel like gas pains? Some people have worse gas at high altitudes (the hilariously named Rocky Mountain Barking Spiders), and the pressure in the cabin when you're flying is certainly a bit less than what you'd experience at sea level, so it wouldn't surprise me if the same type of phenomenon happens while flying.

Gas pains can occasionally feel "sharp" to me, and the fact that pushing down on the general area brings temporary relief also fits with my experience (although there's only one thing that will bring permanent relief, and your seatmates probably won't appreciate it). Things that might help: paying attention to what you eat the day or two before you fly; bringing some anti-gas over-the-counter medicine to the airport and popping a pill before you take off; and if worst comes to worst, going to the bathroom and practicing yoga stretches until the feeling *ahem* passes.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:15 PM on October 13, 2008

If it really is gas (which can't be burped out) then simethicone can help. They sell it for kids and under the brand name "GasX". I have used it for gas pains before and it helps a little. Note that it doesn't actually get rid of the gas per se, it reduces foaming and makes the gas easier to pass. But it will end up coming out of one end or the other.
posted by GuyZero at 12:27 PM on October 13, 2008

Best answer: My vote is that it's muscular. Do you have a gut? Before I lost weight, I would get the EXACT pain that you describe when seated for long periods of time. It got to the point where I couldn't sit for more then 10 minutes at a time. My doctor told me that it was a combination of too much belly fat and weak abdominal muscles. Aside from telling me to lose weight, my doc told me to do exercise that strengthen my lower back and stomach. The exercises helped significantly, the weightloss moreso.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: My hunch is that it's not gas pains, it's actually less sharp than that, and noticeably higher on my body. However, it's worth a shot, maybe the change in posture is shifting what would be the normal location for them.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:51 PM on October 13, 2008

Best answer: My first thought was the horribly uncomfortable airline seats. Try asking for a pillow and putting it behind your back for some lumbar support.
posted by jluce50 at 1:43 PM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome, you all have given me quite a few options to try when I fly home next month.

Thanks everyone!
posted by Riki tiki at 3:53 PM on October 13, 2008

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