Summertime and the Spine: Road Trips

As Willie Nelson sings, “I just can’t wait to get on the road again.” Many of those living with back pain do not feel as excited as Mr. Nelson due to long hours in the car as driving or riding in the car can create pain for your back. Packing up the car, loading in the luggage or family, and getting to your destination is a lot of work, especially for your back! Sitting in one position can stiffen your back muscles and can create aches or muscle spasms. Consider prepping and planning ahead for your summertime road trips with a few tips & tricks to help you care for your spine on the road.

  1. Get Comfortable: If you have a long trip ahead, get comfortable as soon as you get in the car by emptying those back pockets of any items, sitting up straight and positioning yourself at an appropriate distance from your steering wheel, and using a lumbar support pillow or rolled up towel to help offer support to your lower back. 
  2. Plan Ahead with Ice or Heat Therapies: If you are packing a cooler, consider throwing in reusable ice packs to help reduce any inflammation or swelling. Regarding heat therapy, you can pick up a heating pad at the store or use a seat heater if your car offers that feature. If you are driving, consider waiting until you have a break to apply ice or heat for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and to let the skin rest before re-applying. DO NOT directly apply ice or heat to your skin.
  3. Take Advantage of Rest Stops: It is recommended to take a 15 to 20 minutes break for every 2 hours of driving to stretch and walk around. You may take more frequent stops as needed but try to plan your stops ahead of time and take advantage of seeing some extra sights along your route!
  4. Consider being the Passenger: If your back pain becomes unbearable, consider switching out of the driver's seat to the passenger’s seat if another friend or family member is able to take over. You can take this time to lie your seat back and take a nap to have pain relief during your road trip.
  5. Distract and Relax Your Mind: If you are unable to relax in the passenger's seat, plan ahead with a good audiobook, playlist of your favorite music, or an engaging podcast. If you are the passenger, additional distractions could include working on a crossword puzzle or word search, reading a book or magazine, watching a movie or show, or playing a game on your phone or device. 
  6. Pack some OTC Options: If you are prescribed pain medications, these are not advisable while driving. If you are the driver for your road trip, consider packing some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Tylenol, Aleve, or Ibuprofen, to assist with your back pain. Remember to consult your doctor for any over-the-counter pain relievers and to check the labels for side effects or risks.

Checklist to Prepare Your Vehicle for Summer Road Trips - Robbins Nissan

Overall, you want to enjoy your vacation once you get through the road trip! Be smart, prepare, and plan accordingly to accommodate potential back pain and lessen your chances of severe pain while traveling this summer.

Call Dr. Dan Nemeth to learn how he can help treat your acute or chronic back pain today to enjoy your summer!

Signe Spine Team Contributor

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