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As millions hit the roads this holiday season for traveling to visit family, friends, or simply go on vacation, many will experience one thing in common . . . back pain. Whether it’s the prolonged sitting, the cramped positions of a car packed with luggage, or even the stress of travel building tension in your neck muscles, it’s hard to avoid even the slightest pangs of back pain on road trips. Don’t miss these tips for staying pain-free during your travels:
Avoiding sitting too long is best achieved on the road when you regularly get out of the car to stretch and walk around. This might be each time you stop to use the restroom, stock up on snacks, or get gas. Don’t simply run your errand and hop back in the car though. Walk around for a few minutes, stretch your arms, legs, and back, and drink lots of water to keep blood circulating and muscles and joints loose. Even if you’re stopping briefly at a rest stop for your spouse to simply run in to use the restroom, you should also get out if only to stretch and walk around.
Sit on a Cushion
Using car seat cushions for long drives provides support to your coccyx and sitting bones, and the added cushioning better disburses your weight in the seat, taking some of the pressure and stress of your spine. Traditional car seat cushions may be composed of foam, cotton, or even springs, while newer ones feature memory foam and gel fillings. Car seat cushions help to minimize discomfort and relieve the pressure off of contact points on your rear, also promoting better driving posture which can prevent strain and inflammation of key back muscles.
Spasming back muscles or a tight neck and shoulders can bring your road trip to a halt real quick. Stash go-to relief in the car so you can treat back pain on-the-go. Disposable ice packs which become colder from a chemical reaction which occurs when you crack them can be handy, or even reusable ice packs you stash in the bottom of your food and drinks cooler will work (just make sure to stay at a hotel where you can refreeze them). Muscle relief cream which provides warming or cooling sensations, like those with capsaicin or menthol in them, can also be applied on the road for fast temporary relief.
Optimize Foot Room
Did you know that your back receives the best support when you sit legs uncrossed with feet flat to the ground? Not only does this prevent you from slumping and slouching which can added unwanted pressure on the spine, but it maintains a balance in the hips and promotes good blood flow. When traveling long distances by car, avoid overstuffing your foot room with luggage or coolers so you have plenty of space to place your feet below you without having to tilt, sit cross legged, or step on top of things.
Watch What You Eat
Filling up on processed junk food rich with salt, sugar, and trans fats leaves you feeling bloated, gassy, and plain gross any time, much less on a long road trip. It’s so easy to opt for a quick trip to a fast food restaurant when traveling long distances, however, packing healthy snacks and eating those instead is just as fast and will leave you feeling much more energized and alert, preventing you from curling up or slumping in your seat. Healthy road trip snacks might include:
- Hummus and carrots
- Cheese sticks
- Fresh berries or apples
- Mixed nuts
- Greek yogurt
- Whole grain tortilla chips
- Dried fruit
- Dark chocolate
Not only are road trips full of long periods of sitting, but you might end up doing a hefty amount of heavy lifting as well – luggage, kids, pets, the list goes on. Avoid lifting more than 40 or 50 pounds yourself without the aid of another adult, and be smart about packing. For example, items which you might need quick and easy access too, like an overnight bag for a quick hotel stay on the way to your final destination, pack last so you don’t have to dig or move other luggage to access them. Keep snack bags and coolers handy as well, to avoid awkward body twists, turns, and other positions when you’re trying to reach them while on the road.
For multi-day road trips, staying at a hotel or other accommodation with access to a gym or pool is a smart way to make sure you get a little exercise in while traveling. Low-impact exercises like cycling or swimming laps will help to stretch and strengthen back muscles, boosting circulation and reducing inflammation and therefore pain. No gym or pool? No problem. Livestream instructional yoga or tai chi videos from the comfort of your hotel room and get a surprisingly beneficial workout in that way.
Your holiday road trip shouldn’t be spoiled by back pain! With smart steps like using cushions, stretching, and packing relief just in case, you’ll be traveling pain-free like a pro.