Taking the Pain out of The Road Trip

Well school holidays are just around the corner and Christmas is less than a month away, so many of us will be packing up the cars and starting the traditional road trip. For many people though, the thought of long car drives makes them cringe, with the memories of back aches and neck stiffness flooding back quickly. But it needn’t be such a painful experience! With some easy tips and a few exercises, you’ll be arriving at your destination full of the Christmas spirit instead of a belly full of paracetamol.

But like most things, preparation is the key. If you have any niggling problems, get them sorted out before you go away. This way, you are starting your trip in good physical condition, rather than having to stop half way for urgent treatment. If you have room in your vehicle, be sure to pack your own pillows. This reduces those “wry” necks when you wake on the first morning of sleeping in a strange bed with a strange pillow. Next step- check your car set-up. Make sure that your seat is adjusted to provide optimum lumbar support and reduced arm straining to reach the steering wheel. Headrests need to be positioned so that they are not pushing the head forward, as this will cause neck pain and stiffness.

Most people, and especially those with back pain, will find that the in-built lumbar support in their car seats is not enough to support the lower back on a long drive. Lumbar rolls (round or d-shaped foam rolls) are a cheap and effective way to support the lower back while driving. They are simply placed in the curve of the lower back between the chair and the spine, and help to hold the natural lumbar curvature of the spine. Place your backside as far back in the chair as it will go, to help reduce “slouching”.

Try and stop every hour or so to reduce muscle and joint fatigue. Simply go for a short walk and try the following stretches.

  1. Place your hands in the hollow in the lower back and gently arch backwards as far as comfortable. Repeat this 5-10 times.
  2. Place one heel on the ground with the toes pulled back. Lean forward, poking the bottom out the back until you feel the stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold 20 seconds and sway sides.
  3. Stretch your neck by looking on a diagonal into your armpit. Hold 20 seconds and swap sides.

Obviously, if you have any specific problems you should consult a therapist before you go, to get more specific exercises for your body. So with regular breaks, not only will you be protecting yourself from driver fatigue, but you will be doing your body a favour.

For more information on back supports or exercises, contact your health professional. Craig and Rebecca Steele own Hinteractive Physio and can be contacted on 5442 5556.

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