Road trips are intended to be fun, as you excitedly drive across the vast expanses of America with your family members or friends. But once underway, riding in the car can unexpectedly become painful when the uninvited travel partner known as lower back pain shows up.
And, the poor posture that most of us employ while slouched behind the wheel, or scrunched down in the passenger’s seat, commonly leads to lower back pain flare-ups. Driving on our ever-crowded roads also induces stress, which can trigger or amplify lower back pain problems.
Our bodies weren’t designed to sit for hours at a time, cooped up in a car during a road trip. As a result, underlying back problems, coupled with the unnatural contorting of your spine and back muscles, exacerbate lower back pain.
On the bright side, there are steps you can take while enjoying your much-anticipated road trip that may help ward off lower back pain, or at least lessen the symptoms. Without further ado, here are 5 proven methods that you can use to alleviate lower back pain during your next cross-country excursion.
Position Your Body Comfortably in the Vehicle
Prior to embarking on your trip, adjust the seats carefully to maximize support for your body’s contours, and notably the lower back (lumbar) region. Car seat design has come a long way within the past 25 years or so, as today’s vehicles afford you with multiple seat adjustment opportunities combined with added comfort. So take the time to maximize its benefits before you set off.
If you are driving, sit close to the wheel, as prolonged arm extending puts unnecessary stress on your spine and back. Remove objects from your back pockets such as wallets, keys or smartphones, as they may place pressure on your posterior spine, leading to lower back pain flare-ups.
Correct posture also comes into play with respect to more-comfortably positioning yourself in a car’s seat, and we will address that topic more in a moment. In a nutshell, if your body feels uncomfortable while seated, listen to what it is telling you.
Take Frequent Breaks Outside the Car
Our bodies were made to move around, and forcing yours into a seated position for untold hours is simply asking for lower back muscle tightening, aches, and even spasms. If you historically suffer from lower back pain, plan breaks every hour or so in advance. Use these out-of-the car “time-outs” to stretch and walk out the stiffness. As you do so, move around while standing up straight.
Give your travel companion(s) a heads-up regarding your lower back pain-reducing plans, and how often you will need to break during the road trip itself. They will no doubt understand, and encouraging your fellow travelers to use this form of alleviating lower back pain should benefit them too.
A Smoother Ride Soothes the Lower Back Pain ‘Beast’
While on your road trip journey, one thing you cannot control is the condition of the pavement itself. Potholes, bumps and road construction irregularities abound, and will be encountered when driving long distances. However, and in order to create a smoother overall ride that could reduce the likelihood of lower back pain issues, there are measures you can use.
For one, if you have the option of road-tripping in a newer passenger car, as opposed to an old rickety pickup truck, most assuredly a smoother, and more back “friendly”, the total ride will be created by the former.
Prior to departure, make sure the vehicle’s shocks, struts, and tires are in tip-top operating condition by having them checked out by a mechanic. In addition, sitting on a specially-designed, lumbar-buffering pillow, or car seat cushion may go a long way in warding off the unwelcomed road trip presence of lower back pain.
Add the Travel Partners of Heat and Cold to Your Road Trip
If lower back pain has already crashed your road trip party, use heat or cold applied to the afflicted area to take away the discomfort while seated in the car. On most road trips, you and your travel mates will have a cooler. Rotate two or more ice packs in there, and apply one of them while riding in the vehicle. Cold has been found to reduce lower back inflammation, while further numbing the pain of sore and stressed soft tissues.
Conversely, WebMD recommends heat to soothe the lower back area when pain rears its ugly head. For example, bring a heating pad along on your next road trip with a power converter that can be inserted into the onboard cigarette lighter or 12V ports. Place it between the car seat’s back, and your lower back, while sitting.
Note: Always wear your seat belt and shoulder harness while using a cold pack or heating pad!
Use Proper Posture to Reduce the Probability of Back Pain Flare-Ups
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the most common causes of lower back pain recurrences is improper posture. Again, our bodies were designed to sit and stand up straight, with our shoulders up and back, and chin out. Riding in a vehicle for hours while on a road trip, with your body in a scrunched position, may cause a number of negative physiological effects.
Correct posture relieves pressure off of your lower back’s spine and soft tissues, promotes better oxygen intake and blood circulation, and releases healthy chemicals into your body’s system. There are no negatives to utilizing good posture throughout the day, as nature intended, and especially when riding in a car during a road trip while striving to reduce the odds of feeling the nagging signs of lower back pain.