Do long drives give you severe back pain? Let's face the truth! Though road trips are filled with fun and laughter, it can often make your back unhappy. No matter if you are driving the car or sitting as a passenger, with back pain, travelling can be quite tedious.
Back pain is a prevalent health issue. According to some studies, around 23% of adults (across the globe) suffer from chronic back pain. Sitting for prolonged periods is one of the key causes of lower back pain. It's because the sitting position puts more strain on the spinal discs than standing. While driving, the back pain is amplified as your body gets exposed to greater forces like acceleration, deceleration, lateral sway and vibration. Additionally, when you’re behind the wheel, you need to keep your feet active to operate the pedals. Because of this, you cannot plant your feet firmly on the ground for proper stability and in the long run, this may increase your back pain.
In this article, we will share a few smart hacks to help you with back pain while you travel. We will also discuss the ideal driving position to keep your back happy. So, let's dig deep into the topic to know how to manage your back pain on road trips.
1. Sit in a Proper Position
Improper posture while sitting is one of the primary reasons for back pain. So, while you drive, consider keeping your back straight. Also, ensure to distribute your weight evenly across the car seat. Before you start your vehicle, make sure that you are feeling comfortable behind the steering wheel.
As you set off on your trip, sit up straight while keeping your knees a little higher than your hips. Pull your chin in and ensure that your head is sitting straight on your spine. Also, maintain a comfortable distance from the steering wheel. Sitting too close or near to the wheel puts greater stress on your spine and may enhance your back pain.
Keeping your back aligned against the back of your car seat is another way to keep your spine healthy while driving. Remember, sitting on items like a phone or wallet also may cause lower back pain. Thus, before hitting the road, consider keeping your back pockets empty. This ensures proper alignment and keeps your spine healthy even after a long drive.
2. Ride as Smooth as Possible
To keep your lower back healthy and happy, make your ride as smooth as possible. Bumps in the road may put stress on your spine and increase your back pain. Thus, if possible, always look for smoother roads to drive. However, if such roads are not possible, look for alternative ways to mitigate jerks on your spine. Ensure that your car seat has enough padding between you and the road. A coccyx cushion or seat pillow may help you to avoid shocks on your spine.
For longer drives, passenger cars offer you better comfort or shock resistance than pickup or SUV cars. Also, make sure tyre replacements are timely to reduce vibration and shocks. Worn-out tyres are bad at shock resistance and may worsen your back problem. Replacing worn-out shock absorbers can act as a severe lower back pain relief as it may help limit the bounce in your car.
3. Take Regular Breaks
Prolonged sitting in a car may stiffen up your spinal muscles and lead to severe back pain. That is why, while driving, it is important to take frequent breaks to get your muscles moving. Ideally, for every 2 hours of driving, consider taking at least a 15-minute break. However, if you already have back pain issues, schedule more frequent breaks, such as a 10-minute break for every 60 minutes of drive.
Before starting off the journey, try to plan your schedule stops. During breaks, get out of your car, move around and stretch your back muscles. This will improve blood circulation and help to avoid muscle spasms. Movement helps to bring oxygen to your back muscles and helps them to relax for a while.
If your back pain is nagging during a long car ride, consider taking a nap as well. Sleeping is the best medicine to limit your back pain. Park your car at a rest stop and recline your seats for a short nap. If you have a pillow, place it at the head of your seat for better relaxation.
4. Try Cold or Heat Therapy
Along with snacks and drinks, consider stashing ice packs or cold therapy packs in your journey. Whenever experiencing back pain, apply ice for about 20 minutes. This is an amazing technique to reduce your back pain while driving. Cold therapy is great for reducing inflammation and swelling. The application of cold packs slows down nerve impulses and helps to reduce tissue soreness. However, never apply ice directly to your skin as it may cause an ice burn. Rather, wrap it in a towel or a pack for better results.
Just like cold therapy, you may consider relaxing your back muscles with heat therapy as well. This is a great way to improve the blood flow in a certain area. Here, you may use a heating pad or wrap to experience the benefits of this therapy. While driving, apply these therapies during the break. You can also alternate both therapies to combat your back pain more effectively. If your car has heated seats, there's nothing like it. Such seats provide you with continuous low-level heat and are a great option for severe lower back pain relief.
5. Alter Your Position Occasionally
Even if you sit perfectly on your car seat, it's still important to shift your position periodically. Whenever possible, make sure you move a little in your seat. Even 10 seconds of movement may help your back muscles relax. Always remember that movement and stretching are always better than sitting still.
While driving, adjust your seat every 15 minutes. The change in your position improves the flow of blood and relaxes your muscles. You can also pump your ankles occasionally as it provides a relaxing stretch to your hamstring muscles. However, while shifting your position, ensure your safety. Choose movements that are safe to practice while driving. Remember, on a long drive, even the slightest movement may provide you with greater pain relief. Occasional movement helps to avoid excessive muscle stiffness and lower back pain.
6. Employ Diversions From Pain
Taking your mind off the pain is important for a fun-filled road trip. So, before starting your journey, have something planned for diverting your mind from the pain. Though there are a variety of options available for passengers, drivers too have a few to safely occupy their minds. Since music is considered to be a great healer, listening to your favourite track while driving is a great idea. You may also listen to new music channels or download an interesting podcast to take your mind off your back pain.
If you are a passenger, you have additional choices. Watch your favourite show on Netflix or play an interesting video game. You may also meditate, read a book or solve sudoku. Though engaging in diversion is not the solution to your problem, it will definitely help you to concentrate on your journey and add fun to your road trip. Remember, when you are stressed, your muscles tighten, increasing your back pain. Diverting your mind is a great technique to relax both your mind and body.
7. Exercise at Rest Stops
Exercise is often a great backache treatment. Thus, whilst on a break, consider doing light exercises like stretching and walking. Stretches are great for keeping your spinal muscles, discs, ligaments and joints healthy. Light exercises improve blood flow into the soft tissues and discs and provide you with great relief.
While taking rest stops, stretch your whole body. To relax your neck and shoulder muscles, you may do a Side Pull. Prolonged driving may tighten your large muscles and cause pain. Pulling your head towards your shoulder can help to release the stiffness of your upper body muscles. After Side Pull, you may do Thoracic rotations. This is an effective stretch to improve the mobility of your thoracic spine. Rotating your torso from left to right loosens the thoracic muscles and prevents upper back pain.
To provide an excellent stretch to your lumbar spine, consider doing a Roll Down. This exercise not only gets your lower back moving but also lengthens your hamstring muscles. You may also stretch your ankles and knees to ease out your leg muscles. Leg stretches activate your ligaments and joints while providing relief from sciatica pain.
How the YoBack Can Help
The YoBack is ideal for long travelling periods. It’s lightweight and a portable nature mean it’s easy to take with you without using up too much space. The YoBack could be used for posture support in the car, helping you to keep your spine straight. It can also be used at the rest stops for calf stretching, to loosen tight leg muscles from long journeys. Most importantly, the YoBack will give you a tool to use once you arrive at your destination. There’s no need to worry about bulky products to carry and it can easily fit in your backpack or suitcase.
A lot of people do not understand the effects of driving on their backs. So, if you have back pain and have tried out different approaches to reduce your back pain, consider changing your posture while sitting in a car too.
The above-mentioned techniques to deal with your back pain are time-tested. Hence, if you are planning to go on a long road trip this weekend, you may try out these tricks to make your journey a pain-free one. You may also carry products like YoBack for severe lower back pain relief.