Stiff and aching necks are fairly common symptoms of a long car ride. Along with not-so-quiet kids in the backseat and the family dog that won’t settle down, you could be in for a very long car ride if you don’t know how to handle your neck pain. Here are some tips to help make that next road trip more enjoyable and pain-free whether you’re the driver or a passenger.
1. Focus On Body Posture
Body posture is incredibly important to keep all parts of the body in line and functioning properly. A lot of people forget to focus on how they’re holding their body while on a long road trip. It can be easy to be so in tune with getting to your destination as quickly as possible that other things start to slide. Don’t get in that zone and allow that to happen.
The ideal posture is not quite at a ninety degree angle but closer to a one-hundred degree angle (slightly leaned back). This allows your neck and spine to line up the way that they are supposed to. You can still reach out for the steering wheel and operate it properly in this position.
2. Pay Attention To The Headrest
The headrest in any modern vehicle is adjustable. If it doesn’t quite fit right to support your head and neck, you should take the time to adjust it before getting on the road. It only takes a few extra seconds to get this done properly, but even a fraction of an inch can make all the difference on a long road trip.
What makes things more difficult is that many newer cars have their headrests tilted slightly forward. While this helps lessen the chance of whiplash in an accident, it doesn’t help with comfort on your neck. If you’re in the market for a new car and get frequent neck pain, pay extra attention to this easily overlooked design element.
3. Use Features In Your Car For Back Support
A lot of vehicles have lumbar support as a feature in the driver’s seat. This helps to support your back and keeps you more comfortable as you’re driving along. However, if your particular vehicle doesn’t have this feature, then you can easily improvise a solution. A lot of people use a pillow to support their lower back while they’re driving.
The pillow acts as a little support mechanism to help the driver (or passenger) remain comfortable and at ease. It’s important that the driver maintains the ability to comfortably reach the steering wheel without having to lean forward while driving. As long as that’s a possibility, it’s a good method. You can also place the pillow behind your neck if it helps.
4. Adjust The Mirrors
Constantly having to crane your neck around just to see the traffic around you? This probably means you need to adjust your mirrors to get a larger field of view. It’s another one of those steps that takes just seconds to get right, but will prove dividends for your neck.
You should be able to see just a small amount of your own vehicle in the side mirrors, and you should have a full view of the back window from your rear view mirrors.
5. Use Specially Designed Neck Supports and Traction Devices
There are products on the market specifically designed for the neck. Some of them are pricey, but the price paid is well worth it for a healthy neck. Those with more severe neck issues such as stenosis, herniated discs, or pinched nerves may want to invest in a cervical traction device and do a session at home before going on your drive. This will help release neck tension and put you in the best position before you even get in the car. These devices can be as simple as an inflatable pillow or a posture pump that medical professionals use and recommend.
6. Get To The Eye Doctor
Poor vision is the cause of a lot of neck problems in people who drive often. They have to move their head forward to be able to see road signs. This leads to more strain on the neck than they should have. As a result, the person who has to keep straining their eyes like this will end up with neck, shoulder, and back pain. It may not be a big deal when running quick errands, but it adds up over the course of a long drive
The best solution is to get yourself to the optometrist for a vision test. It might just be the case that now’s the time you realize you may need glasses, contacts, or even Lasik surgery. Being able to see clearly while driving makes a big difference.
7. Use Cruise Control
Instead of holding your body in the same slumped position for long periods of time, consider using cruise control when you can. On the interstates and highways it’s pretty easy to get to a certain speed and then just allow the vehicle to maintain that speed once you get away from congested areas. You’ll be keeping your foot near the brake pedal in the event that you need it, but in the meantime you can rest easy knowing that you have the ability to relax a little and let the vehicle do the driving.
8. Pull Over And Take A Rest
If you start developing neck pain despite doing everything right, there’s no shame in pulling over and taking a break. We can all use a little rest from time to time on a long road trip. Giving your neck a little break can equal quick relief. You won’t have to keep holding it in the same position for so long.
Rest stops are plentiful along the interstate. You can even find smartphone apps these days which list all the rest stops on your route to make planning easy. Use the resources that are available at these stops to give your neck and your whole body a rest.