22 December, 2020
Easing Low Back Pain on Road Trips
Approximate reading time: 3 minutes
You’ve done your back but the borders have finally opened up. You are ready and raring to get out on the road but you are worried about your low back pain.
9 Handy Tips to Save your Back on Road Trips
Take regular breaks
This one is probably so obvious we don’t need to say it. We’ve included it because frequently your partner, family or friends need reminding.
Drink plenty of water. Not only is water great for keeping muscles loose but it’ll also force frequent bathroom breaks.
Remember that sitting is a common cause of back pain. It also accumulates throughout the day.
- Pro Tip: Aim for a 10-15 minute break every 1-2 hours if not sooner. If you can only drive 30 minutes, then listen to your body.
Ice ice baby
If you’ve just done your back, an ice pack can do wonders. Pack a small esky or cool bag to keep a few spares.
Tuck into pants to hold in place but make sure to wrap up in tea towels or a spare t-shirt so it’s not directly on your skin. Ouch!
If your back is spasming and isn’t in the initial stages of the injury, then a heat pack or heated seats can be a life saver.
- Pro Tip: Avoid HARM and let PEACE guide your way. Find out what these acronyms mean here.
Perform your favourite lower back stretches when you have a break.
There’s a few sneaky ones you can do in the car too:
- Seated glute stretch
- Seated cat / cow
- Hallelujah Stretch
Getting In and Out
We don’t think about how we get in and out of the car most of the time. Easy to not think about the mundane when you aren’t in pain.
Focus on sitting into the car facing the door and then swivelling around. A common way to hurt your discs is bending and twisting so don’t do it while getting into and out of the car.
Low Back Support
Your lower back should have a C-shaped curve to it. This curve provides shock absorption and protects the discs.
That makes this one very logical - support the natural curve of your back.
You can roll up a t-shirt or towel and pop in the curve of your lower back. Otherwise the easy option is buy one! They are cheap and they tend to last years- I’ve had mine for almost 5 years.
Bring your seat forwards and a little more upright
Pop your feet flat on the floor and your back against the seat.
Make sure to adjust your mirrors so that you don’t have to twist to see in them.
- Pro Tip: Make sure you don’t have anything in your pockets. If you have something in your back pocket, it’ll lift up your hips on that side and squash the body a little. Not ideal when you are already feeling tender!
Ideally we do what we can to avoid aggravating your pain but when all else fails, distract yourself. Stock up on your favourite podcasts, curate a road trip playlist or, if you can stomach it, something to read.
When we hold our breath, we hold tension in the body. When we breath shallowly, we can get tight through the front of the hips, mid-back and neck & shoulders.
Take a few deep breaths into your belly. Focus on your belly rising as you inhale and sinking in as you exhale.
If you find this too relaxing, don’t do while you’re driving! Safety comes first.
Use Cruise Control
If you are driving, using cruise control can give your back a relative rest. When we put our feet on the pedals, we frequently turn out feet and hips out by activating the piriformis muscle. This “pain in the butt” muscle can pinch on the sciatic nerve and if you pain, weakness, numbness and tingling down the leg.
When you can safely use cruise control, place both your feet flat on the floor.
If you do your back while away, know that you might be able to get out of hours treatments, like we offer.
Google or find someone local here.
If you already know you have an injury, you could ask your chiropractor to write a quick note for a local chiropractor to treat you while you are away.
While a little different a concept, you can see your chiropractor online. Your chiropractor can assess your low back pain, provide an estimated diagnosis and give you exercises and advice to relieve your pain.
Find out more here.
- Take regular breaks, aiming for 10 minutes every hour.
- Come prepared with ice and / or heat packs.
- Get in good posture & adjust the car to that.
- Do stretches and deep breathing.
About the Author
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Pilates Instructor and Perinatal Yoga & Pilates Instructor
With 10 years experience treating musculoskeletal conditions, Cassie uses a range of therapies including gentle adjustments, specific massage techniques, laser therapy and home rehabilitation plans incorporating Pilates & yoga. She regularly treats headaches, migraines, back pain and sports injuries.