Our Michigan weather seems to have turned the corner. We’re not quite wearing shorts yet, but maybe we can put the snow shovels towards the back of the garage. Is now the time to plan for a quick weekend getaway to see friends or family or an even longer spring break trip?
Road trips are more economical than airplane rides. But extended car trips do pose a risk for people who experience pain. Extended driving or riding time can exacerbate pain in the back, neck, shoulders, legs, knees and ankles.
Here are some tips to hit the road without exacerbating your current pain issues or creating new ones:
- Adjust your seat (and bring along accessories) to ensure that you can maintain proper posture. Remove everything from your back pockets like wallets and cell phones. Bring a pillow or rolled towel and place it in between your lower back and the seat to provide additional support.
- Start with good posture when driving. Your arms should be bent at the steering wheel and your knees should be bent too. It is a mistake to sit too far away. This adds extra strain on nearly every part of the body.
- Support your head. Adjust your head rest so that it touches the middle of the back of your head. You want to do everything you can to avoid having to lower your neck or lift it up. Ideally, you are looking straight ahead with some neck support.
- Wiggle! Staying still is not ideal, believe it or not. Instead, shift your body around, even lift up an arm occasionally and push it on the car roof, doing a little isometric exercise. Roll your neck and shoulders. Shift your hips to the left and to the right and tilt your pelvis back and forth.
- Exercise at every stop. When you stop to use the restroom, utilize this extra time to stretch. Walk around for a few minutes (inside or outside, but briskly). You should also stretch out your arms above your head and by crossing the midline of your body. If you can do so, deep squats, done slowly, can also be restorative.
- If you are already in pain, stretch cautiously. Although stretching will generally be helpful at rest stops, if you are already experiencing pain, don’t start vigorous exercises the second you get out of the car. You will already be stiff and somewhat inflexible. Give yourself a few moments to slowly “unwind” and only then try small movement stretching exercises (Extending your back, stretching arms to the sky, bending into a half squat are all small movement standing exercises.)
- Be a backseat driver. If you are the rider and you begin to experience pain, lie down for a stretch in the back seat so you can change your position and get some relief.
- Break up the driving. While lots of people can take on a 10 hour drive, your pain threshold may preclude this. Do not feel guilty about dividing your trip into smaller, bite-size portions.