How to Travel Without Low Back Pain

The weekend road trip to Montreal seemed like such a great idea until 500km later when I stepped out of the car and found my entire low back in spasm. I almost couldn’t straighten up and was starting to walk with a limp.  Oh how I was almost tempted to go into some downward dog yoga poses right there in the parking lot in order to relieve the pain.  Luckily I didn’t have to resort to that.  Just walking it off a bit and moving around loosened it up.  But it did remind me of a common complaint from my clients and also a condition I lived with for a few years.  Most importantly, it inspired me to write a blog post to help out all those summer travelers.

One big reason why people start to suffer from low back pain on long car rides is inactivity.  Our bodies are not meant to be immobile for hours on end.  Our muscles need to move about, contract and stretch in order to remain functional.  Inactivity decreases blood circulation, waste removal and nerve conduction to the muscles resulting in muscles that are irritated and sore.

If immobility is the cause of pain, then surely some motion must be the cure.  From suffering years of low back pain, I developed these exercises that always did the trick for me on car or plane rides.  Try some of these on your next journey and you will see the improvement.

Tips for Preventing Back Pain

  • Stop frequently.  You can take a breath of fresh air, enjoy the scenery, grab a snack, etc, etc.  But most importantly, you are stretching out those muscles and moving them in a natural fashion and boosting blood circulation.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • If you’re stuck in a car seat, wiggle a little.  Crank up the tunes and start jiggling!  It’s good for your health!  You might not be inspired enough to break out into a full blown fist pumping dance session, but some slow gentle motion can greatly help you stay loose. Here’s how:

Mobilize Your Lower Back

  1. Start by raising your left hip then lower it.  Then raise your right hip then lower it.
  2. Then try twisting your left hip forward then back, followed by the right.
  3. Arch your lower back so that your bum sticks out a bit more.  Next round your lower back.

Exercise Your Gluteal Muscles

  1. Now you can start working your gluteal muscles.  First of all, you want to squeeze both glutes together.  If you do this right you might feel yourself lift off the seat a bit.
  2. Next try squeezing just the left gluteal muscles.  It might help to push your left foot into the floor at the same time almost as if you are trying to raise that left hip off the seat.  Now try the right and alternate back and forth.
  3. If you are feeling especially adventurous, turn the volume up to 11 and just dance without any shame.

Safety First

  1. A few things to remember for safety sake:  To avoid accidents it is not recommended to do these exercises if you are driving.  To avoid being locked up, try these moves by yourself first so that you feel comfortable enough doing them in a way that doesn’t attract too much attention in public (the key is slow, small movements).

It might seem a bit strange at first, but with some practise it will become second nature on those long trips.  And by the way, I did these exercises on the ride back from Montreal and was amazed at how I felt no traces of back pain when I stepped out of the car in Toronto.

If you find the pain too intense or long lasting, you might need a massage or acupuncture treatment.