Since we are at the height of travel season during these hot summer months, I thought it would be a good reminder to think about your back during long car trips, especially if you suffer from chronic back pain or have had previous back surgery.
Below is a list of my Top Five Travel Tips for Your Back on Long Car Trips!
Let’s start with simple things first. Before you even get in the car, make sure that you have adequate support from your car seat and/or sometimes the necessary lumbar supports or pillows that you usually use.
It is important to note that you should be comfortable enough for the long trips but also that you can SAFELY visualize all directions and operate all of the features your vehicle has to offer. This can be as simple as be able to adjust the pedals to the right height, appropriate seating posture i.e. sitting up straight, and also being able to simply reach the pedals without putting undue strain on your back where you could potentially introduce a back spasm rending your starting and stopping ability useless.
**Some cars are equipped with heated seats that you may traditionally think of using during the winter months, but they can also come in handy during the summer months too.
You would be surprised as to how often in the office as we’re going through why things happened and what triggered your back pain, that I hear about people having things in the their back pockets i.e. wallets, cell phones, and the occasional sandwich (yes, it’s true!) that caused the back pain.
With all joking aside, this can seriously alter your spine’s alignment and when you add in your driving position for an extended period of time, your body will become accustomed to that position. Tilting one hip higher than the other can cause issues like this. As soon as you adjust, the back spasms and pains begin.
I highly recommend you avoid having anything in your pockets, both front and back, to avoid any back pain triggers that may occur.
Occasionally during my office visits, I’ll hear someone telling me about their trip and that “I made it in such and such hours” from point A to point B. Although, I’m often surprised that someone can make a trip from New York to Los Angeles by car in 6 hours, that’s usually not a good thing. Besides obviously speeding or I like to call “flying low”, from a Spine Surgeon’s perspective, this means that you broke a cardinal rule of NOT getting out to walk around and stretch every 1 to 2 hours.
Not only can getting out of the car and giving your back a rest from the long trip, but you can also sometimes discover new things. One of more iconic discoveries was a large blue whale on Route 66 during a cross country trip a few years back.
Besides, getting out every fews hours on a road trip will allow you to stretch your back, help circulate your blood (preventing blood clots) and just stopping to “smell the flowers”
Stretching your back is very important on long car trips. I’m not talking about getting out and doing a full aerobic routine (but you can if you want to) but rather take a few minutes to stretch your back so that things remain limber. It is also usually good practice to stretch before your trip, during your trip, and after your trip.
Usually some variation of forward and side-to-side bending can usually “work the kinks out” of your back. This can make your trip much more enjoyable and comfortable while simultaneously keeping your back flexible to prevent those unexpected muscle spasms and pain.
Staying hydrated on the road is one of the most important things you can do your back as it will feed your muscles with the appropriate amount of fluids it requires. We often times (I’m guilty of this too) drink lots of coffee or tea during these excursions but the reality is, the caffeine content from these beverages although provide the stimulation we crave, also can accelerate the dehydration process during these trips.
Try to limit the amount of caffeinated beverages, especially carbonated beverages during these trips. Water is usually the best remedy for hydration and your body will love you for it!
Consider using these Five Travel Tips for Your Back on Car Trips can go a long way in making your trip much more enjoyable and memorable. Please be safe in your journeys!