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Travel Comfortably to Prevent Neck and Back Pain

chronic back pain

Don’t Let Neck and Back Pain Affect Your Ability to Travel

Riding in a vehicle is difficult due to bumps and turns. If you suffer from neck and back problems, getting in and out can be a painful experience. With so many types of vehicles – and so many different types of neck and back conditions affecting us – there is no one solution to riding comfortably.

Neck and Back Pain Prevention Tips for the Road

Generally, sport utility vehicles, vans and trucks sit up high and are easier to ride in than cars that are lower to the ground. Bigger vehicles have bigger doors and seats. This extra room makes it easier to transfer in and out.

The seats are important. For the neck and back, cloth tends to be more comfortable than leather. Automobile manufacturers make one seat to fit all shapes and sizes. With a little padding, you can make your seat fit you, instead of you fitting the seat. A lumbar support in the low back can be helpful if your car seat does not have this feature built-in. Most physical therapy centers sell foam “lumbar rolls.” A small rolled towel across the back at the waist level is another easy option for lumbar support.  

Some seat bottoms sag and don’t give enough support; here, a small stack of newspapers under a towel can help. The newspaper firms the seat and the towel protects your clothes; also, the towel slides on the paper and makes it easier to transfer out of the vehicle. Headrests should be adjusted so the back of the head hits the rest in a rear collision, instead of the head going  over the top of the rest. A small pillow placed behind the neck or upper back will support the neck while driving and may lessen neck pain and headaches.  Become familiar with positioning the rear-view mirror and side-view mirrors. This one easy detail will lessen the amount of neck and back twisting needed to drive.

A manual transmission is harder to drive because of the clutch and gear shifter. A vehicle with automatic transmission is easier on the back and muscles.

45 Seconds Now to Save 45 minutes of Pain Later

When transferring in and out of a vehicle, remember to avoid twisting your back and neck –  keep them straight. If you have them, use electric controls to move the seat back and tilt the steering wheel up before exiting the vehicle. When getting into your vehicle, sit down first, and then bring both legs in together. Alternatively, go in head first, to keep the neck and back straight. Remember to move as a unit – neck, back and pelvis. Take your time; 45 seconds here may save 45 minutes of pain later.

Neck and Back Pain Prevention for Occasional and Frequent Flyers

Airplane seats are not usually well-padded. Use a blanket to sit on, and some kind of lumbar support. An inflatable neck pillow is helpful if you regularly try to sleep on airplanes. Exit rows and bulkhead seats often have enough room to allow a person to stand in front of the seat. Avoid carry-on luggage, as it usually requires a person to twist/ lift/ bend to store it, and there is usually not time or space in the aisle to use proper body mechanics.

If possible, don’t drive or fly for more than 45 to 60 minutes. Get out and stretch or walk around. Prevent further injury by using lap and seat belts.

Many of the orthopedic conditions which we commonly face today can be addressed with nonsurgical treatment. For serious back and spine problems, seek quality orthopedic care.