How to be more comfortable in the car

Road trips sound nice in theory—seeing the countryside, stopping at the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and finding out-of-the-way diners where the waitress calls you “honey” and gives you a free slice of homemade pie, just because.

But, for the 31 million Americans who live with low back pain, sitting in a car for any period of time—even just the 30-minute morning commute to work—can be something they dread. Pain relievers and cushioned seat covers can only do so much, after all. Below are some tips on making the drive more enjoyable than exasperating for your spine.

Don’t fall into your car. Before you get out of your car, move your seat away from the steering wheel as far as it’ll go. This will help you to get in more easily next time. Lower yourself slowly, facing the door of the car, and then pivot your body on your bottom as a single unit toward the steering wheel, without twisting your back. Use the same motion to exit your car.

Get close. Make sure the driver’s seat is close enough to the wheel so your legs can bend at the knees and hips, rather than being straight.

Add lower back support. To provide lumbar support, roll up a towel to about the width of your arm and place it in the small of your back so there’s a slight inward curve in your lower back.

Don’t slouch. Keep your backside pressed against the back of the seat and not forward, which will cause you to slump.

Unlock your spine. If you’re going to be in the car for a long time, like on a road trip, make slight adjustments to vary your spine’s position, about every 15 minutes. It’s not good to keep your spine locked in place for multiple hours.

Empty your pockets. Clear your back pockets of your wallet and cellphone so that you don’t sit on them and throw your spine out of alignment.

Ice is your friend. If you’ll be driving for a while, bring a cooler and a small ice pack. If you experience back pain, apply ice, wrapped in a towel, to your lower back for about 20 minutes to slow swelling and numb sore tissues.

Stop and stretch. When you get out of the car, stretch your back by placing your hands on your hips and gently arching. Hold for 10 seconds. You should also stretch your hamstrings. Place one leg on the bumper of your car and slowly straighten your knee until you feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. You can further stretch your spine by taking a short walk.

Getting kids in and out of their car seats. You can easily injure your back by stretching your arms out to place your child in their car seat. Instead, get as close as possible to the car seat first by bending or kneeling on the back seat. Use your lower body instead of just your arms and back to do the lifting.

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