Don’t Let Your Summer Road Trip Turn into a Pain in the Back

Man driving in car

Before you take off for a summer road trip, be prepared with these tips to help keep your back pain at bay.  We’ve mapped out a pain prevention plan that fits any road trip you’re arranging, from I-95 to Route 66:

Protect while you Pack
Back pain can begin with packing the car.  When loading heavy luggage in your vehicle be sure to use your legs, not back when lifting.  Tighten your core as well during the packing process to further protect your back muscles.

Keep on Rollin’
Rock from side to side in your seat, rolling from your left butt cheek to your right, then back.  Repeat this move about a dozen times every 20 minutes or so.  This keeps the fluid in your spinal disks moving—which prevents stiffness.

Try Steppin’ Out
Don’t rest at the rest stops—get out and walk around.  A walk break every hour or so gives muscles the blood rush they need to fight stiffness.  For maximum revving in minimum time, try a 10-minute walk while moving your arms in a wide front-to-back arc.  These slightly exaggerated movements will open your gait and increase circulation which can suffer when sitting for long periods of time.

Put Stress in Reverse
Stress on the upper body can cause it to slump forward, so be mindful of that and keep your body as upright as possible.  Try this back, neck and shoulder stretch whenever you exit the car:  Place your hands gently on the back of your head so your elbows are about even with your ears, then pull your elbows backward as far as you can.  Next, clasp your hands loosely at the small of your back (as if you’re handcuffed), then roll your shoulders back as you extend your arms out and up behind you.

Don’t Shoulder the Burden
A couple of hours in the car can cause your spine to curve out of its natural “S” shape into a “C” that causes upper back muscles to cramp.  Prevent this by using your car’s lumbar support feature or placing a small pillow behind your lower back.  To help restore normal posture, shift forward slightly in the seat, then stick your chest out and move your elbows back and down as if you’re trying to put them in your back pockets.  You’ll help fight that C-curve, and you should feel relief between your shoulder blades.

H2O on the Go
It can be tempting to cut back on water consumption to minimize the amount of restroom stops needed, but dehydration does more harm than good.  Staying hydrated while traveling will help to keep your spine and joints lubricated and flexible for increased comfort.

If you would like additional information regarding back pain and how to avoid it on the road and off, please contact your local CACC Physical Therapy clinic to learn more.