Map spread out on car dashboard

How to Survive a Road Trip with Persistent Pain

If you have persistent back or neck pain, riding in a car for any period of time can be difficult. Riding in a car for an hour or more can be even more challenging. If you have a road trip or long car ride coming up, consider some of the following tips to make the trip as best as it can be.

Take frequent stops

Stopping often to walk around and stretch can help with your pain from sitting. Before even leaving the house, plan your trip out and how you want to take a break. You can plan it however feels comfortable for you. Whether that’s a five-minute break every hour or fifteen minutes every two hours. Incorporate these planned breaks into your road trip route.

When you do stop, move around. Sitting for long periods of time will stiffen up your muscles and lead to achiness and possible muscle spasm. Movement is important for everyone, but especially those with persistent pain. Movement stimulates blood circulation, which brings nutrients and oxygen to your muscles.

Hydrate and snack appropriately

Dehydration can increase pain, so keeping plenty of water on hand is important. If it’s hard to drink lots of water, opt for green tea or vitamin water with antioxidants that help with inflammation. Drinking pop or sugary drinks can add to inflammation, which can add to pain.

As much as it’s important to drink plenty of water, it’s important to eat foods that help your body as well. Eating anti-inflammatory foods is great for your chronic pain, as well as your waist line. Try to eat foods like cherries, watermelon, almonds, smoked salmon, and fresh veggies. It’s sometimes hard to find better food options at gas stations, but you can always pack a cooler ahead of time to help set yourself up for success.

Make your trip as smooth as possible

Bring some comfortable accessories along on your trip. Getting a seat cushion made for a car or a lumbar pillow can help support your back and spine. Try riding passenger for a long trip or if you have to drive, switching up driving shifts with one or more people will let you change up your sitting position and may help with a smoother ride. When driving make sure your seat and mirrors are in a comfortable position as well.

You want your seat close enough to the steering wheel that you don’t have to hunch your shoulders forward to reach the wheel, but you want to make sure you are not so close that your arms and elbows hug your body. The seat itself can also tilt forward or backwards. Tilting the seat forward helps preserve the curve in your lumbar spine (lower back). And tilting the seat back lifts your knees above your hips, which can relieve low back pain.  You also want to make sure your mirrors are at a good level. You want to be able to look into your side and rear-view mirrors with a level chin. Having your chin tilted for too long can result in neck pain.

You shouldn’t just try to ease pain on road trips. Working on strengthening your core and exercising frequently can help try to ease pain in the long run. Click to read more on how exercise and stretching can help ease pain.


If you have more questions or need more help regarding your pain, please call 952-841-2345


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