Be Travel Ready: 6 Tips to Relieve Back Pain on Your Long Road Trips

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When you’re having back pain, riding and driving a car for a long time–an hour or more–can be a real struggle since this could make your back pain worse. Try to consider and save these steps to save you from your back pain during your next long drives:

1. When you get inside the car, get comfortable immediately. Take time and make sure that you’re comfortable with your surroundings and sitting position from the moment you set off for your trip. Make an effort and guarantee yourself that you have eliminated even the smallest possible irritant at the beginning of your trip since this can turn into your worst nightmare later. To do this, make sure to:

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  • Keep your back pockets empty. Sitting with anything at your back may throw your spine out of its alignment. Before you sit and get comfortable, check for the possible things that may keep you from maintaining your spine straight. Your wallet, phones, tiny boxes, and anything else like this could be one.
  • Sit up straight. Make sure to get comfortable and sit up straight during your drive. Be mindful to keep your knees slightly higher than your hips. You should also keep your chin pulled in to keep your head sitting straight on top of your spine.
  • Keep your back aligned against the back of your seat for extra support. To have extra support for the contour of the inward curve of your spine, if you are a passenger, you can use a small pillow (if you have one with you) or a scarf (rolled up) placed in between your lower back while sitting. Doing this could help you get your spine more comfortable. This also helps with sciatica and lower back pain.
  • Sit at a comfortable distance from your steering wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has advised drivers to be at least 10 inches distance away from the steering wheel when driving for airbag safety. However, though they advised the said distance, it is important to not sit too far away either since this can cause more stress on the lumbar spine, wrists, and shoulders because it can be hard for you to reach the wheel.

2. Try to make your ride as smooth as possible. A bumpy road could be your worst enemy when you have back pain and you are sitting in a long-drive car so it is important to make your ride smooth. The following are some tips to achieve it:

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  • Ride in a passenger car rather than pick-ups and SUVs
  • Make sure the tires are not worn out since this can cause more vibration and shakiness in your ride. Replace it with a new one if you notice that it is worn.
  • Replace worn shocks to avoid and/or minimize the bounciness of the car when driving.
  • Sit on a car seat pillow or coccyx cushion since this will provide you more comfort while on the road

3. Get out, move and stretch your back around. Sitting in a long car ride, in one maintaining position the whole time could make your back muscles stiff which can cause muscle spasms and back pain. People having long drives are very prone to this, so, when you are having a long drive, make plans of stopping over every 2 hours for at least 15-20 minutes to stretch and move around to avoid back pain.

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Movements and stretches allow circulation of the blood which could help bring nutrients and oxygen to the muscles on your back. Breaks and stopovers will also allow you to enjoy a place, eat, rest, or do your stuff. On the other hand, if you are more prone to back pain, you might need to rest and stretch more frequently such as every 60 minutes, depending on how badly you need it. Listen to your body.

4. Shift your positions more often. If possible, try to move and stretch for a little bit inside your car if you can’t do stopovers and get out. A 10-second stretch and movement can already help you rather than just sitting still the whole time. If you can, try to adjust your seats and change positions every 30 minutes for blood flow and circulation. Stretch your hamstring muscles. Any movement you can do in the car could surely help you out with your problem. 

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5. Try heat and cold therapy. Applying heat and cold therapy to your lower back can help you alleviate the pain on your long road trips:

  • Cold therapy– can help reduce inflammation and swelling. When you are going on a long drive, consider bringing some ice and other cold therapy packs with you and storing them in an ice box. If you can’t bring some with you, you can buy some in a store during your stopovers.
  • Heat therapy– can increase your blood circulation which is essential in reducing pain and muscle spasms. You can use some heat pads or heat wraps for this. You can also use a moist heat pack if you prefer. Some people, to keep it warm, place it in a microwave when they go on trips.

When doing this, it is only recommended to apply this on the affected area for at least 15-20 minutes while giving yourself a rest for the next 2 hours before doing it again. 

Some drivers have heated seats which would give them low-heat levels while driving. This is a good option. However, if you don’t have one, it is best to do heat and cold therapy while taking breaks from driving.

6. Distract yourself by employing diversions from pain. Whether you are a passenger or a driver, it is hard having back pain on long car rides. So, it is best to have something planned to do to take your mind off the pain.

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You can listen to your favorite songs while jamming to them, talk to your friends inside the car about one thing that interests you the most, and listen to a podcast that you find interesting could help occupy your mind. 

Try out these steps and see if it works for you. Hopefully, it will help you ease your back pain on your long drive. Drive and keep safe!


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