Be mindful of your spine during Christmas road trips

As many families across Australia are gearing up for the Christmas break, here at Sea and Sand Chiropractic, we are urging those planning long car road trips to be mindful of their spinal health over long distances.

Long road trips in the car can lead to back and neck pain not only for the person behind the wheel, but for the entire family. Research1 has shown that vibration caused by driving can accelerate degeneration of the body’s twenty three spinal discs, leading to low back pain and disability.

Our bodies were not designed to sit for hours at a time, especially in car seats which are often not conducive to proper posture in the first place. Children with an unsupported head and neck in the back of the car can develop a wry neck nodding off to sleep, whereas everyone in the car is at risk of having their joints irritated from excessive vibrations in the car.

To minimise the chances of back and neck pain over long distances in the car, and to ensure these problems do not hamper the rest of your holidays, follow these tips when on a Christmas road trip:

  • When driving, put a prop between your knee and the door so that your hip, knee and ankle alignment stay straight. In doing so, you can help to avoid rotation of the hip and jamming of the pelvic joints.
  • Use the rear view mirror as a feedback guide to remind you if your posture is OK: to avoid neck and upper back strain, put your seat up straight, push your head back against the head rest, and adjust your rear view mirrors appropriately. If your posture starts to slouch, you will have to correct it to see your rear view mirror.
  • Avoid sugars and caffeine in the car: avoid “sugar highs and lows” and just drink water on long trips. Too many sweets can create blood sugar high and lows, which are not good for concentration.
  • Play safe car games in a group to stay alert, rather than using stimulants and chemicals.
  • Create a mini posture circuit when driving: tilt your seat forward to avoid pressure on your hamstrings. After 30 minutes tilt it back into position. Repeat this to create a mini circuit over long distances. Put a prop (such as a pillow) behind the inside of your lower back. After 30 minutes, remove the pillow, and repeat the process to create a mini circuit.

By following these simple tips and being mindful of your posture while in the car, families can minimise back and neck pain and experience a happy, healthy and safe Christmas.

1 Battie, M.C., Videman, T., et al. (2002). Occupational driving and lumbar disc degeneration: A case-control study. The Lancet360(9343), 1369-1374. ,

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