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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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