Tips to Prevent Back Pain on Road Trips

Tips to prevent back pain on road trips - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Long Summer days are the perfect opportunity to explore the vast expanses of Australia as you head off on road trips with family and friends. However, if you suffer from low back pain, riding in the car for an hour or more can be a real challenge. Our bodies weren’t designed to sit for hours at a time, particularly cooped up in a car. Underlying back problems combined with the poor postures many of us adopt while slouched behind the wheel or in the passenger seat can exacerbate low back pain and really put a dampener on your travel plans.  Luckily for you, we have some tips to prevent or alleviate low back pain during your next road trip!

Get comfortable!

Take the time to make sure you’re comfortable from the moment you set off on your trip.

Adjust the seats carefully to maximise support of your body’s contours, particularly your lower back. Make sure your back is aligned against the back of your seat. For most people, this means adding extra support in the form of a lumbar roll or rolled up towel between their lower back and the seat to maintain their lumbar curve.

If you are driving, sit close to the wheel. Prolonged arm extension while reaching for the steering wheel places unnecessary stress on your spine, neck, shoulders and wrists.

Remove objects such as wallets, keys and phones from your back pocket. They will alter the position of your pelvis and throw your spine out of alignment, placing you at greater risk of back pain.

It may take some trial and error to find the position that works best for you, but the general rule is that if your body feels uncomfortable while sitting in the car, listen to what it is telling you!

Make the ride as smooth as possible!

For many people, the worst part of a road trip can be the bumps in the road that can jar your spine. One thing you cannot control is the condition of the road itself; potholes, bumps and road irregularities are unavoidable when driving long distances, however there are steps you can take to create a smoother ride and minimise their effect.

Prior to departure, check the vehicle’s shock absorption, struts and tires are in top condition. Replacing worn shock absorbers and tires can limit the bounce in the car and create a smoother ride.

Sitting on a pillow can also provide some extra cushioning between you and the road and can help ward off unwelcomed back pain.

Inline roadtrips low res

Even if you don’t have a 1965 Mercedes 220SE like these guys, you can still find ways to make your road trip comfortable. Try a rolled up towel behind your lumbar spine, or warming pads.
Image source: The Hangover.

Take frequent breaks to get out and move around!

Our bodies are designed to move. Sitting in one position in a car will cause your muscles to stiffen up and can lead to aches and pains and potentially muscle spasms.

Plan ahead and schedule in stops every hour or so. Get out of the car to move around, stretch and walk out the stiffness. Movement stimulates blood circulation which brings nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. It also helps to ward off the effects of fatigue and will help you to stay awake and alert on those long stretches of road. A quick stop at Dog On Tucker Box, the Apostles, Moorabool, or the loo, will help pep you up!

Road trip bingo doesn’t count.

Warm up your muscles!

Many people find that keeping the lower back warm is a good way to alleviate pain on a long road trip. Although you may not be able to use a microwaveable heat pack or a hot water bottle out on the road, there are still options that might be helpful. Some cars have heated seats which are great for delivering a continuous low level of heat to keep your muscles warm. Alternatively, there are instant heat options such as heat packs that start to heat once you break a small disc inside them, stick on patches, such as Hotteeze that provide up to 12 hours of heat or various gels and creams such as Flexall or Fisiocream that assist in providing pain relief.


Remember that the best treatment is prevention! Your physiotherapist will be able give your body a tune up before you head off on your road trip, as well as providing you with some exercises to do on your scheduled rest breaks to relieve pressure in your spine and alleviate pain.

Pop “call Laura at Revive before heading away” on your pre-trip checklist.

We can provide you with advice on lumbar rolls to improve posture, creams and gels that may be beneficial, and if you’re planning any kind of trekking/exploring/hiking/physical summer break activity while on holiday, we’d definitely like to make sure you’ve got some support and advice to make the most of it!

Luckily for all of us, Revive will be open throughout the Christmas and New Year period! Come in and say ‘Hi’. After all, the worker elves at Revive know how busy you’ve all been leading up to Christmas – it’s time for a tune-up!

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