With the arrival of summer, many are getting ready to pack up their cars and head to beaches, mountains, theme parks and other exciting vacation destinations. While there's no question that a summer road trip is a fantastic opportunity for family bonding, long journeys can wear on your spine — especially if you already suffer from chronic neck or back pain.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to minimize your pain so you can focus on what matters most — spending time with the people you love. These spine-safe tips can help you reduce stress on your back, lessen your potential for pain and improve your overall comfort while you make memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Pack Smart and Plan Ahead
Preparing for a road trip can be a challenge, especially when you're on a tight schedule and young children are involved. But taking time to get everything just right before setting out on your journey can make all the difference when it comes to fending off back pain.
Packing up your car poses the first risk of spine strain. Make sure to exercise caution when moving bulky or heavy items. Be sure to lift with your legs — not with your back — and avoid leaning over your open trunk while placing and rearranging suitcases. Particularly weighty items should be positioned near the rear of the car, so you don't strain your back when unpacking them. If there's a cooler or bag you'll need to access at pit stops, stow it in an easy-to-reach location.
What you pack is just as important as how you pack. Because balanced nutrition and plenty of hydration are crucial to a strong spine, be sure to include water and healthy snacks in your travel kit. Make sure to also bring a heating pad or ice pack along to alleviate any back pain that might arise.
Be Mindful of Your Posture
Before hitting the highway, make sure to find a seated position that’s supportive and comfortable for your back.
Before starting your trip, adjust your seat, mirrors and steering wheel. Firmly press the base of your spine against the back of your seat, bend your elbows slightly and plant your left foot on the floor. Position your seat as high as possible so that your legs can bend in much the same way they would if you were seated in a regular chair.
If your car seat lacks lumbar support, roll up a small towel or t-shirt and place it just behind the curve of your lower back. Make sure to remove your wallet and all other items from your back pockets to avoid unnecessary discomfort in your hips and spine.
Although it can be easy to move out of this position as you drive, try your best to maintain it whenever possible.
Take It Slow
On long trips, it can be tempting to drive for long stretches without stopping. After all, the faster you get to your destination, the more time you have to enjoy it. While driving for as much time as possible can seem like a good idea, taking your trip slow and steady will mean a more relaxing vacation overall. Periodic breaks from the road give you a chance to stretch your muscles, which is essential for warding off back and neck pain. Make stretching fun by using it as an opportunity to visit state parks, explore a city you’ve never seen or try some local cuisine. Your family — and your back — will thank you.
Once you arrive at your destination, don't start unpacking heavy items from the trunk right away. Now that you're on vacation, it can be easy to forget that stretching your muscles is necessary before any heavy lifting. Warming up your muscles can save you from a summer break spent nursing an aching back, and get your vacation started on the right foot.
Secure Your Spinal Health With Whole-Person Care
If you struggle with back pain, don’t set out on a road trip before talking to a professional. Whole-person care is key to a healthy spine and a healthy spirit. The helpful physicians, nurses and specialists at AdventHealth are committed to delivering the compassionate spine care you need to keep living your fullest life. Find a doctor near you today to get started.