Traveling with Back Pain

By Robert Daniel Lim, PTA, Site Coordinator

Coping with Back Pain During the Long Car Ride

Have you decided to go on the that family trip that you have been planning for months or years but traveling via car is the cost-effective way to get there? The biggest issues with long car rides for any trips are distance. Some trips my take two hours some may take days. Issues that might arise can be neck pain, knee pain, hip pain but also the dreaded low back pain. There are ways that you can avoid back pain prior to your trip. First thing first is getting that seat as comfortable as possible. Sitting up versus slumping will be the best position for your neck and low back. Also, you might want to take a rolled-up towel or pillow to best position or mid back and low back area. Adjusting the headrest will help with decreasing stress to the neck area. Especially for extremely long trips, taking pit stops either at rest areas, gas stations or restaurants, make sure you get out and stretch and move around.

Male experiencing back pain after a long drive in his car.

Driver with back pain

Coping with Back Pain During a Long Airplane Trip

Now that you read about coping with back pain for a long car ride and you have decided that going via a car will be long and pain staking but taking a plane will be best for you, there are few tips and tricks that can help. When booking your flight, take a few things in consideration such has making sure that flight times aren’t to early to where you are waking up early or to late to where your body is tired. Also consider taking direct flights versus multiple layovers. If you have multiple medical conditions or chronic cervical, midback, and low back pain you might consider getting assistance with getting a particular seat or certain privileges when flying. As mentioned above plan on taking a pillow for extra cervical/thoracic/lumbar support. Posture is always key when sitting for long periods of time. Adjust your seat when you can during the flight. Staying stationary especially sitting puts strain on your low back. Take the time to stand up and stretch your legs and back.

Young man (traveler) using smart phone during flight and listening music.

Traveler preparing for flight.

How to Prepare for a Long Trip

When preparing for a long trip either by car or plane, get plenty of rest prior to your trip. Traveling when your exhausted either mentally or physically can be very taxing to the body. Especially when driving long periods, if you are tired you become drowsy thus risking falling asleep behind the wheel. As mentioned, make sure you are taking breaks when you feel tired. Another quick tip is to back healthy snacks. Pack snacks such as nuts or fruits and veggies versus chips and junk food. Stretching prior to your trip can also be very helpful. Being loose and relaxed can help with making joint loose and flexible.

Best Exercises When You Are Traveling with Back Pain

The following exercises below are some of the most effective exercises for low back pain. These are simple but yet effective enough to help with flexibility, mobility and overall core and glute strength.


  1. Lie on the ground or bed and bend the knees, placing the feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  2. Press the feet into the floor, keeping the arms by the sides.
  3. Raise the buttocks off the ground until the body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the knees
  4. Squeeze the glutes for approx.. 5 seconds.
  5. Lower the buttocks to the ground and rest.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times and then rest for 30 seconds to a minute.
    1. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
female athlete performing a bridge with exercise band

Female athlete performing a bridge

Lower Trunk Rotations

  1. Lie back on the floor or bed with bent knees together and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Keeping the shoulders on the floor, gently roll both bent knees over to one side to were you feel a good stretch.
  3. Hold the position for 5–10 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Gently roll the bent knees over to the opposite side, hold, and then return to start position.
  6. Repeat about 10-15 on each side.

Single or Double Knee to Chest

  1. Lie on the back on the floor or bed.
  2. Bend the knees, keeping both or either feet flat on the floor.
  3. Use both hands to pull one knee or both knees in toward the chest.
  4. Hold the knee towards the chest for 5 seconds
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat with each leg 2–3 times twice a day.
single knee to chest stretch

single knee to chest stretch

For physical therapy for the back, please call 904-858-7045. 

Back or Neck Pain

Do you have back or neck pain that is not improving? Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help! To schedule an appointment, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or clink the link below.

By: Robert Lim, PTA

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