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How to Avoid Neck and Back Pain When Traveling

How to Avoid Neck and Back Pain When Traveling


As summer creeps nearer people are starting to get ready to take trips. It’s important to know how to avoid neck and back pain when traveling in planes, cars and trucks. Riding in a vehicle is difficult due to bumps, turns and getting in/out. People are different, their problems are different and their cars are different, so there is no one answer to riding comfortably. In general, sport/utility vehicles, vans and trucks sit up high and are easier to ride in than cars that are lower to the ground. Big vehicles have bigger doors and seats. This extra room makes it easier to transfer in and out.

Your Seat Choice Makes the Difference

The seats are important. 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”, or a person can use a small rolled towel across the back at the waist level. 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 it 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 a person drives and may lessen neck pain and headaches. Learn to use the rear view mirror and side-view mirrors – this 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. Try driving an automatic, if you have the option.

How to Move and Posture Tips to Avoid Neck and Bain Pain

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 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 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.

Airplane seats are usually not 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.

Don’t drive/fly more than 45-60 minutes. Get out and stretch/walk. Prevent further injury – use lap and seat belts.

Other Insights

Are you in pain?

Most patients experiencing pain can be seen by Dr. Callewart or his physician assistant within 24 hours in Dallas, Forney, Rockwall and Addison, Texas.