Are you traveling this year? Do you have a long road trip ahead? Are you traveling for more than 1 hour? 3 hours? 6 hours?
The thing I hear every year when my family road trips in for the day is that their back is hurting from sitting in the car for so long. Sound familiar to you?
Here are three quick tips to get you talking about how hungry you are when you arrive at your destination instead of how badly your back hurts…
Shift Pelvic Posture
- We shift our weight subconsciously when our body starts aching on longer road trips. The problem is if we wait until after it starts to hurt, it’s too late. The small shifts we make are not enough to create a therapeutic effect.
- Ideally, we would all pull off to a rest stop to get out and walk every 20-30 minutes, but who wants to make the road trip even longer? Walking feels good because we are shifting the load on the spine and allowing for redistribution of the fluid in the disks and pressure on the ligaments supporting the spine. When we stand, the curvature in our spine usually goes into a more “arched” position, or as a Physical Therapist, I call it an “anterior tilt” position.
- We can mimic a similar move while we are driving (safely!). While sitting, roll your pelvis forward to the full end range creating an excessive arch in the lumbar spine, or anterior tilt position. Hold this position (not your breath) for 20 sec and tighten your stomach. Repeat 3x, every 20 minutes. By doing this, you can create a similar effect on the spine as you would standing to reset the disk pressure and modify the loading of the spine.
Properly Position the Lumbar support
- Most cars today have a built-in lumbar support system that can be effective if it is positioned correctly. However, it can be just as effective if not more effective to use your own lumbar support due to having more control over the specific placement against the lumbar spine. There are many different lumbar supports on the market and it doesn’t matter as much which one you choose to use, but how you use it. In this picture, I demonstrated a simple rolled-up towel.
- The whole purpose of the lumbar support roll is to maintain the natural/normal curvature of your lumbar spine and not let it ‘flatten’ placing abnormal compression on the discs of the spine. The number one mistake I see is the support is positioned too low. When this happens, this actually can encourage more of a flattening of the spine and not only defeat the purpose of the support but predispose your body to more discomfort from poor posture. As pictured, the roll should be slightly above the hips, allowing your spine to curl above it and below it which places your spine in a slightly lordotic position’ or as Physical Therapists call it, a ‘neutral spine.’
- Learning to find your neutral spine is an important skill to develop. Once your neutral spine is found you can apply it to every posture throughout your day such as sitting, standing, driving a car, working at a desk…etc. There are some great strategies that a Physical Therapist can implement to help develop your understanding and the proper feel of a slightly lordotic position or neutral spine.
For help learning the best positioning for your spine, two additional road trip tips, and more ways to have a symptom-free drive, feel free to send me a direct message.