An elderly couple driving in their orange classic car

5 Tips to Relieve your Lower Back Pain on Road Trips Lower Back Pain can be an Unwelcomed Travel Companion


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

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

A woman sat in her car ready to start her trip

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.

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 in advance breaks every hour or so. 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 low 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

A young couple sat in their car while driving

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.

The Lumo Lift Posture Coach is a Great Road Trip Companion

To facilitate good posture, the team at Lumo has developed cutting-edge technology to assist your efforts in reducing the likelihood of suffering from lower back pain. Our Lumo Lift is a small sensor device, about the size of a lapel pin, that can be conveniently-worn anytime, anywhere.

Further, the Lumo Lift Posture Coach will alert you, with a gentle vibration, when you have poor posture. It is a great way to stay informed when you are slouching. The Posture Coach is a useful resource to help you reduce your chances of suffering from another low back pain episode anytime, anywhere. As a result, it is our goal at Lumo for your lower back to be pain-free.

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