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5 Tips to Alleviate Back Pain while Traveling for the Holidays

5 Tips to Alleviate Back Pain while Traveling for the Holidays

This year because of COVID-19, many people have decided to travel to their loved ones’ houses via car instead of plane which means a longer time sitting in the same position. Regardless of how you’re traveling during the holidays, keep in mind these 5 tips that will help with your back pain so you can enjoy your destination when you get there.

1. Get comfortable!

This may sound obvious but not all cars come with built-in lumbar support. If your car’s seats don’t have built-in ergonomic features, you can roll up a towel, pillow or back support to place between your lower back and the seat for more support. There are cushions you can buy online for specifically for sciatica, neck, and lumbar spine pain but any support will help. It is also important to sit on a level surface so your spine is balanced so empty your pockets! Cell phones, wallets, and other items in your back pocket will throw your spine out of whack. If you’re driving, move your seat close to the steering wheel to reduce reaching. Reaching places more stress on the lumbar, spine, neck, shoulders, and wrists leaving you in pain. Remember to keep making slight adjustments throughout the trip roughly every 20 minutes to distribute stress. You should be in a position throughout the car ride with your knees slightly above your hips, chin pulled in, sitting with good posture.

2. Bring a small cooler

Back pain is typically accompanied by inflammation. Bringing a cooler with an ice pack will give you easy access to apply it on your pain. If you're experiencing back pain, apply ice on the outside of your clothes for 15-20 minutes. It will decrease inflammation and numb sore muscles. If you have extra room in the cooler pack some grapes! Grapes contain anthocyanin that reduces inflammation as well.

3. Alternate ice and heat therapy

Heat will help decrease stiffness by allowing the soft tissue around the spine to relax and stretch. Many cars now have built in heated seats so if that is the case for you, between icing your back, turn the seat warmer on for a few minutes at a time. If you have the time and resources to purchase a heating pack with a car charging adapter that would work just as well. Otherwise, you can fill a water bottle with hot water before you leave and place it behind your lower back (this method will only be effective throughout the first hour or so).

4. Take an extra minute during your rest stops

Stopping every couple hours may be inconvenient, but it will make all the difference for back pain. At the rest stops you can stretch and do some back exercises. Exercise can be a great treatment for low back pain! When you’re out of the car make sure you walk around and do hamstring stretches. If you work with a physical therapist who gave you exercises for your back, try to stick to your normal routine. Inform your physical therapist about your travel plans and see if there are any adjustments they recommend you make.

5. Use Available Space

If your back pain has become too much for you to handle and the backseat is available, capitalize on that. Take a few extra minutes at a rest stop to lay down in the back of your car with your knees bent and a pillow under your head. If you are the passenger then recline the passenger seat to a position that is comfortable for you during the drive.