How to avoid back pain on your summer road trip

drivingThe wide, open road is calling your name. You dream of turning the music up, rollin’ the windows down, and …  having a back spasm? Of course not. Pain and discomfort aren’t on anyone’s list of vacation essentials, but so often the combination becomes the uninvited guest along for the ride. So how can you make sure that enjoying some summer freedom won’t end up costing you later? Read on for some road-trip tips that will help you take care of your back and keep fun at the top of your priority list.

Before traveling

Seating arrangements. Take a few minutes the week before a long driving trip to evaluate your seat position in the car. If you are the primary driver, get settled in your seat and look around you. Try out the height of the steering wheel and make sure it’s at a comfortable position so that your shoulders and back aren’t stretched uncomfortably. Check all of the mirror heights, including the rearview. Make sure everything is positioned ideally to prevent any neck strain or awkward turning while you drive. You might also consider using a semi-inflated beach ball to keep your lumbar position correct and provide you with some added back support.

Relaxed mindset. Since stress can only worsen back pain, try to eliminate as many problems as possible beforehand. Have a clear driving itinerary mapped out that includes time for breaks every hour or two. Be sure to have enough toll money if needed, and keep bottled water and sunglasses at the ready. You don’t want to be frustrated when an unanticipated need arises, so set yourself up for the best outcome so that on the day of traveling you won’t have any unexpected stress.

While traveling

Be proactive. Even though you checked everything the week before, don’t let an hour go by before you make a beneficial adjustment. If needed, move your seat forward so you aren’t straining for the pedals. Use cruise control whenever possible.

Take breaks. You might be the type of person who lives for the thrill of shaving some minutes off the estimated time of arrival, but for the sake of your back, try to overcome those urges. By adding in an extra hour or two of travel time, you may well save yourself days of pain and ruined vacation plans. When you stop, walk around for five minutes and then do some light stretches. Movement warms your muscles and keeps essential fluids moving through your joints.

Taking extra time and planning ahead should keep pain where it belongs: away from your road trip!

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