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Tips For Shielding Yourself From Lower Back Discomfort Caused By a Road Journey

As soon as I stooped to unload my luggage, I sensed the impact of the three-hour car excursion on my physique with a sudden, somewhat prickly crack in my lower back.

It’s the summertime, meaning, if you’re akin to me, you’re devoting numerous weekends embarking on extended drives to visit pals, bask in nature, and unearth your local surroundings. Yes, the season of road trips is here, which is splendid for your spirit of exploration—and possibly detrimental for your back.

The effect on your lumbar area during a road voyage

“Anytime you are seated for an extended period, you may begin to experience tightness and discomfort,” Brad Baker, DPT, a performance mentor at Future, explains.

However, I perch for hours at my desk each weekday. Therefore, why did my back choose to protest after sitting as a passenger in the car for less than a half day of work?

“Even if you are supposedly ‘working’ at your desk for eight hours daily, it’s not as if you’re consistently seated for eight hours straight,” says Abbigail Fietzer, DPT, an adjunct lecturer in the physiotherapy program at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles. In contrast, a road journey lacks breaks in the kitchen, restroom, or water dispenser, so you genuinely sit for lengthier durations (besides the infrequent pit stop).

You may also adopt a stance that feels cozy momentarily, such as reclining, that ultimately exerts additional pressure on your back.

“Given the structure of our spine, it is more effective at supporting the weight of your head and upper body resting on your behind when you are truly upright,” Fietzer remarks. “So frequently when we drive, especially over time, we incline towards adopting a somewhat hunched position, meaning that the spine isn’t properly aligned.”

How to avert back issues when driving

Alas, it was too late for me and my creaky back, but there are actions you can take to ensure your body withstands the road-trip ordeal.

“One of the key factors is the arrangement of your vehicle,” Fietzer notes. “The setting can significantly influence how well or how poorly your back feels during an extended period of driving or even riding as a passenger for a considerable duration.”

Fietzer recommends setting your seat in a manner that keeps you sitting upright, with your knees marginally higher than your pelvis. You could also contemplate rolling up a towel and placing it behind your lower back to receive some support (or utilize a dedicated lumbar support cushion).

She also advises taking breaks as frequently as possible. And if breaks are not feasible, attempt to at least stretch and change positions every 20 to 30 minutes.

Add in those core muscles! “Whenever you remember, take a moment to engage those muscles because the more often we remind our body to assume good posture and loading, the less likely we are to remain in poor posture for extended durations,” Fietzer stresses.

Incorporate that core engagement whenever feasible, whether in or out of the vehicle, and focus on building your core and back muscles to ensure you possess the physical fortitude to maintain proper posture.

Prepare for your road trip with these core workouts:

Three exercises to alleviate lower back discomfort post-road journey

If you’re experiencing discomfort and seeking methods to alleviate lower back pain, there are exercises that specifically counteract the consequences of sitting and putting stress on the lower back region.

“Imagine stretching in the opposing direction to how you were static before,” Baker advises. He clarifies that when you’re seated for an extended period, your “lower back is bent forward, pelvis is tilted back, and hips are also in a forward-flexed position.”

Stomach lift

To combat the bending in your back, you’ll want to move into an extension. Achieve this by performing a stomach lift: Lie on your belly with elbows bent and hands on the floor next to your upper chest/shoulders. While maintaining your hips on the ground, raise up so your back arches, offsetting the forward-rounding position.

Pelvis tilt

Regarding the pelvis, which has spent considerable time tilting back, you can execute a “pelvic tilt,” which entails lying on your back, tilting the hips forward by arching your back, and then relaxing. You can also replicate the same outcome with a cat-cow stance: Establish a neutral table-top pose on hands and knees. Initially, tilt your pelvis up, arch your lower back, and elevate your chest and head. Then perform the inverse: Lower your head, round your spine, and tuck your pelvis under. And repeat!

Kneeling hip flexor stretch

To elongate your hips, Baker recommends a kneeling hip flexor stretch, also known as a equestrian yoga position. Get into a lunge stance and place your back knee on the ground. Proceed to lean forward, causing your front knee to bend at a sharp angle. Do this on both sides.

You can perform these stretches following a prolonged car journey, or even try them while taking a break en route.

A road trip shouldn’t equate to lower back discomfort. Keep stretching and toning, take breaks, and perhaps refrain from unpacking your luggage immediately after sitting for three hours!

If you do, this strengthening and stretching regimen for lower back discomfort provided me with some solace:

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