road trip

3 Ways to Avoid A Painful Road Trip

By Bill Waltzek – CPT

Summer is a great time to pack up the car and take a road trip. Exploring the open road through the countryside is an exiting way to escape the monotony of the daily grind. And of course who doesn’t want to reward themselves with a nice long vacation?

This past summer my wife and I decided to take a trip to Vail, Colorado. We usually choose to fly but thought it would be fun to give the 16-hour road trip a try. With any long road trip you will find yourself in need of many pit stops and stretching. We certainly took our fair share of stops.

If you choose to travel by car those long drives can create some discomfort. Low back pain, muscle cramps and knee pain are just a few of the symptoms that usually can occur. However, not all is lost. Here are a few simple tips to help make your long journey more enjoyable.

Follow these tips to keep those limbs limber:

1. Posture:

  • Maintain a correct posture by keeping your knees slightly higher than your hips with your legs at equal distance from each other and shoulders back.
  • Make sure you don’t sit too far away from the pedals as this could put additional strain to your upper back and neck.
  • If your car has lumbar support make sure it is adjusted to support your lumbar spine. If you do not have lumbar support you can always use a pillow or a rolled up towel between your lower back and the car seat.
  • If you keep your wallet in your back pocket, remove it so your hips are not unevenly positioned.

2. Stretching:  Stop every couple hours to stretch. Pit stops can be a great way to circulate the blood and get a few stretches in before getting on with your journey. Even just a walk around the roadside oasis energizes your body.



  • Hip Flexor stretch – Start by getting into a half kneeling position with one leg in front of the other. Slowly reach with both hands back behind the forward leg while pushing your hips forward. You should feel this in your back positioned leg.

  • Standing Hamstring stretch –While standing, place one heel on a curb or small step. Keeping a straight knee, reach both arms to the sky. Now gently lean forward while keeping a neutral spine. You should feel this in the back of your legs.

  • Upper body stretch – While standing find a bench, railing or your car and place both hands on them out in front of you. With your feet together let your chest fall through and down while pushing your hips back.

  • Giddy Up – Just like you’re about to jump into a cold pool, you shake everything, do a couple hops and “giddy up” to your destination.

Each stretch should be about 15-30 seconds, and always make sure you breathe throughout the stretch.

3. Pain Relief

  • If your car has heated seats, turn them on to sooth the muscles of your lower back. If you do not have heated seats a heating pad works as well.
  • You can also alternate between heat and ice. Since you will most likely have a cooler for snacks you should have a convenient place already full of ice packs for quick back therapy.  Place an ice pack on your lower back for no longer than 20 minutes. “As most back pain is accompanied by inflammation, ice therapy can slow back swelling, numb sore tissues, slow the nerve impulses in the affected area, and decrease tissue damage.” According to

Vacations should be enjoyable. Hopefully these tips will help keep them that way. Now on to Wally World!


References:  Top 7 Back Pain Treatments for Summer Vacation Car Rides  The Standing Hamstring Muscle Stretch – How to Easily Stretch Your Hamstrings While on the Go