Traveling can be rough on the body. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are opting out of traveling on crowded airplanes and choosing instead to drive to their desired destinations. Whether you are traveling alone, on business or are on your way to a sunny resort with your family, long hours in a car can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore.
No matter how comfortable your car seat is, sitting for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your body, placing strains on your muscles, restricting blood flow, and making you feel stiff once you stand up. The solution? Do some simple stretches to “warm up” before settling into a car and “cool down” once you reach your destination. If you are taking a very long trip, take breaks to move around and stretch your muscles. Do some upper- and lower-body stretches or take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles.
If you are the driver, try the following tips to stay ache and pain free:
- Adjust your seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible. Place four fingers behind the back of your thigh close to your knee. If you cannot easily slide your fingers in and out of that space, try re-adjusting your seat. (Check your car manual to ensure you are at a safe distance from the steering wheel in case the air bag is deployed.)
- Consider purchasing a back support. Using a support may reduce the incidence of low back pain and strain. The widest part of the support should be between the bottom of your rib cage and your waistline. (Check your car manual to ensure using a back support does not interfere with the safety features of your vehicle.)
- Exercise your legs while driving to reduce the risk of any swelling, fatigue or discomfort. Open your toes as wide as you can, and count to ten. Count to five while you tighten your calf muscles, then your thigh muscles, then your gluteal muscles.
- Roll your shoulders forward and back, making sure to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
- Tighten and loosen your grip on the steering wheel in order to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists and hands.
- While being careful to keep your eyes on the road, vary your focal point while driving to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tension headaches.
- Take rest breaks. Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, your passengers and other drivers.
Reviewed by the ACA Editorial Advisory Board.