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Three Ways to Save Your Back on Your Next Road Trip

Late summer beckons with luxuriously long days, wide-open roads, and potentially back-breaking car trips. Although a road trip may take you away from work or your daily routine, sitting in your car can be as bad for your body as sitting at your desk—especially if you will be on the road for a long time.

Additionally, vibrations from vehicular motors have been linked to low back stress (Lis, 2007). Don’t cancel your trip just yet, though—with a few important adjustments, you can protect your back and make the most of your journey.

Fine-tune your seat before you start

Prior to hitting the road, take the time to properly adjust your seat and your steering wheel.

  • Raise the height of the seat so your hips and knees are in line.  
  • Bring the seat in close enough for you to fully depress the pedals without having to move away from the back rest.  
  • Adjust the steering wheel so that you can hold it comfortably at “9-10 pm“ and “2-3 pm” without reaching or straining. While holding the wheel, relax your shoulders down, away from your ears.
  • Slightly recline your seat (to an angle of approximately 100 to 110 degrees) to decrease pressure on your lower back.
  • Adjust the head rest so that it supports the middle of your head.  
  • Empty your pockets so that your hips are level when you sit, with even weight in both sitting bones.

Bybass the slump

To avoid turning into a human question mark at the wheel, use a small towel or lumbar support to help maintain the natural concave curve (a small arch) in your lower back. Simultaneously, sit up tall and keep your shoulders open; bring your chin to a neutral position (parallel to the horizontal line of your seat).

Take a break

If rest stops are available and safely accessible, utilize them regularly. Whether you stop for a caffeine fix or just a quick walk, it is important to take a break from a stationary seated position every hour, if possible—especially if you are prone to back pain. For a quick rest-stop stretch, try this chest opener:

  • Grasp your hands behind you, bending your elbows, and interlocking your fingers. Keeping your hands together, start to straighten and lift your arms until you feel a gentle stretch across your shoulders and chest. Hold this position for a few cycles of breath and reset.  

If you suffer from back pain, a Vori Health physical therapist can customize a treatment plan to help get you on the road to recovery. Learn more about personalized treatment plans that put you in the driver’s seat of your health.

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