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Travel Tips for Those Traveling with Lower Back Pain.

Travel Tips for Those Traveling with Lower Back Pain.
By Dr. Matthew McGowan


With upcoming holidays, camps, and summer vacations causing a spike in extended travel, we have been fielding a lot of questions on how to keep one’s back steady while traveling.  

If you are taking a long car trip and you suffer from low back pain, it would be a good idea to stop after 2 hours of driving if possible and do a quick 3 minute stretch.  The two most common stretches I suggest that can easily be done while stopping for gas or at a rest stop are the standing figure four stretch and the standing hip flexor stretch.  

For Air travel, you can follow the same guidelines allowing yourself to walk to the back of the plane near the restrooms where you can also do a hip flexor stretch or a standing figure 4 stretch.  Here are photos of both of these stretches:

Standing figure 4:  you can hold onto the side of the car with one hand, cross your ankle at your opposing knee and sit back and down until you feel a stretch across the butt on the side of the crossed leg.  Hold this stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds and do 3 per side. 


Standing hip flexor:   you can place your front foot up on a guardrail, a tire, or even inside the base of the car with a door open.  Before lunging forward it is important to contract the butt muscle on the trail leg and keep it squeezed as you lunge forward.  This will ensure you feel the stretch down the front of your trail leg and keep the lower back safe.  Hold this stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds and do 3 per side. 


  • For shorter intervals of driving or times when you cannot stop, it can also be a good idea to use the seat controls and change the position you are sitting in.  Varied seat positions will keep you from getting stiff in one continuous position.
  • If you are a person that deals with sciatica, you can place a folded beach towel on the seat so that it lifts the butt upwards and keeps the front part of the seat from digging into your sciatic nerve.  Also try to pick your foot up fully when going from gas break rather than just pivoting on the heel.  Leaving the heel down on the carpet and having the foot rotated out towards the gas pedal for long periods of time can irritate people with sciatica as well.  


While travel can be tough on people with low back issues, these tips or tricks can sometimes make it a bit more manageable. 

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