So you’re going on a road trip. Yay!
Packing went well. And you’ve thought of everything: your route, snacks and drinks, boredom busters like car games and movies, and awesome things to do at your destination.
But wait — have you considered how taxing a road trip can be on your back? Or even on your kid’s back?
From getting all your luggage from house to vehicle, packing it just so (hoisting, re-positioning, Tetris’ing), and potentially getting kids in and out of car seats, it’s no wonder that back, neck and joint pain (think shoulders and knees) can be pretty common thanks to something as simple — and fun! — as a road trip.
So, safety first.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind, many of which come from the Ontario Chiropractic Association’s website:
- First off, packing your stuff into luggage with wheels and a handle is ideal. And although backpacks can be a great option — since they distribute weight evenly — a lot of us pack our kids’ things into backpacks and overstuff them in an effort to maximize space. This puts the littles at risk when we ask them to carry these too-heavy packs, so remember to keep their loads lighter
- Packing a vehicle is an art, and I know it’s one that you or your partner take as seriously as loading a dishwasher. With that in mind, be sure that you get close to your luggage and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart before trying to lift it; then bend at your knees so your legs do all the work, saving your back for the long drive ahead
- Bend at the knees and let your leg muscles do the lifting, rather than your back
- If your vehicle doesn’t have adjustable lumbar support for the seats, you can roll up a towel or use a small pillow to help ensure you’re seated comfortably and protecting your back. And don’t forget to readjust the seat and steering wheel if you switch drivers
- Sitting for a long time doesn’t do the body good. Even with the best posture, if you don’t move around from time to time, you can restrict blood flow; worse still, if you’re like me and have the (very bad) habit of either propping one foot up on the dash or tucking one leg under you, you’ve GOT to schedule breaks to stretch and realign. Pee breaks may not be frequent enough if you’re all camels who only need to pee every five hours or so! Even a quick pit stop for 2 minutes can help, but if you’re really pressed for time or there’s just nowhere safe to pull over, put on some music and lead everyone — except the driver, please — through some moves while seated that’ll help promote good circulation and posture
- Kids who get devices during road trips are usually very easy-to-manage kids, and I know from experience that this makes driving a much happier experience all around. I am, therefore, pro-device! However, they need screen-time breaks not only for their eyes but also for their necks, which are usually humped over in an unnatural posture for too long, so try to limit device time to 20-minute intervals
- Pack a few Ziploc bags and a tea towel so that if you find that anyone’s experiencing discomfort during your road trip, you’ll be able to grab some ice from the cooler you packed full of juice boxes and bottled water and use it for pain relief. (Experts say no longer than 10 to 15 minutes at a time, though!)
Most of all, go make some incredible memories with your family.
DISCLAIMER: The Ontario Chiropractic Association compensated me for this post and provided several back-health tips, but as always, the opinions expressed (as well as a couple of the tips up there) are my own.