Monthly Archives: May 2015

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Road Trip Ready: Tips to Stave Off Back Pain on Long Drives

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Packing up and hitting the highway for a spontaneous summer adventure is pretty much living the dream. But if you suffer from moderate to severe back pain, hours upon hours in a car can sound more like a nightmare. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent and reduce road-induced aches. Try these tips on your next excursions.


Pack Smart

 Hauling heavy bags to the trunk can throw out your back before you even start the trip! Plus, too much luggage in the cab can limit your seating options down the road. Try to pack light and use all your available trunk space, and don’t forget to get help lifting anything you feel iffy about.

Bring a Driving Buddy–Or Two!

It’s best to take turns driving on long trips. The more capable drivers, the merrier! Switching off gives you a chance to relax, and alleviates the additional stresses that come with driving.

Use a Lumbar Pillow (or other device)

Find a cushion that works for you. These guys have some great tips for how they make their vehicles more comfortable.


While driving, start by being conscious of your breathing. Fast, shallow breathing can lead to increased tension. Controlling your breathing may help you better relax your body. Some simple stretches you can do while driving include shoulder rolls (alternate slowly “shrugging” each should toward the steering wheel) tailbone tucks (“tuck” your tailbone down, arch your back, then curl back forward) and stop light twists (at stoplights, twist back and forth in your seat, leading with your shoulders). At rest stops, try side stretches for quick relief, or any of these for a more in-depth session. Want to learn from the long-haul masters? Check out this simple illustrated guide for professional truck drivers.

Ice and Heat Therapy

Alternating ice and heat therapy may be an effective way to ease back pain. Try packing some ice packs in a cooler, and investing in a heat pack that can be plugged into a cigarette lighter, like this one from Target.

Don’t Delay Comfort

Make sure you feel comfortable the moment you sit down. As seasoned travellers know, small annoyances can balloon into full on agony all too quickly. Take time to get fully situated–adjust the seat pitch, position your lumbar pillow, heat pad or other devices, and check your mirrors to insure you won’t need to strain to see them.


Obviously, don’t distract yourself from driving! A good podcast, radio station, book on tape, or conversation can be a great way to have fun, learn something, and keep your mind off pain or fear of pain. Games like I Spy, Fortunately/Unfortunately, and Would You Rather are throw-back fun (and a great way to get to know your fellow roadtrippers!).

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Three Spine-Saving Exercises and Stretches You Can Do In The Water

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Need a good excuse to head to your local pool? Do it for your back. Exercising or stretching in water is a great way to get the benefits of physical therapy while minimizing the weight put on your spine, thus reducing your risk of injury. Here are some exercises to try:

*Please note that we do recommend consulting your therapist or physician for a more tailored regimen specific to your needs, and to confirm that any exercises listed are safe given your condition and overall health.


Knee to Chest: With your back against the pool wall, gently raise your knee to your chest, hold, and repeat.

Sit and Swing: “Sit” With your back facing the corner of the pool and your arms on the edge or ledge supporting your weight. Bend your knees, and use your hips and lower back to rotate slowly from side to side. Check out the first fifteen seconds of this video for a good example.

Water Walking or Side Stepping: Walking in hip to waist deep water is a great way to strengthen muscles that take pressure off your spine. Need extra support? Try side stepping: facing the wall, walk sideways along it, as shown.

Prone Floating: The ultimate sun bather’s spine exercise. Simply lay prone on your stomach, with swim noodles supporting your arms, neck, face and feet.

Aqua Aerobics Routine: Aqua aerobics is a great, low impact way to get a quality workout. A typical routine may cover many of the moves described above. It also will help you build muscles in your core and legs to help provide better support for your back, which in turn may reduce your risk of injury. Look for classes in your area, or check out this video series for some beginners lessons.

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