- Pack the car! Sure, you can pack essentials such as flares and a spare gas cannister blah blah blah, but let's be practical. Music is paramount, and as I learned after 87 hours of prairie driving, you never know which tune will strike the right chord - Guilty by Babs Streisand and Barry Gibb? J.T. bringing SexyBack? Total Eclipse of the Heart? You just don't know, so be prepared. Oh, and though your iPod can easily hold 80 gigs, your back may not; putting your back out before you've even backed out of the driveway is not a good start. When loading the car, bend with your knees, use your core when lifting and ask for help! No point in ruining a vacation before it even starts.
- Speaking of before it starts... did you receive your pre-trip adjustment? Plan for this - especially if you've been having 'twinges' lately. I can't tell you how often a distressed patient says to me "this happened last week and now I can't walk ... and we are going out of town in TWO DAYS!!" (No really, I can't tell you how often - it would violate patient confidentiality.) Get adjusted a day or two before you leave, and while you are at it, book a post-trip treatment too. Do you have everything you need? Though you can likely pick up whatever you need en route unless you are road tripping through Borneo, it is still wise to bring a back 'first aid kit', especially if you are prone to flare-ups. Throw an ice pack into the cooler with your Cristal, and bring Advil or your pain killer/anti-inflammatory of choice to have for emergencies. Remember your orthopedic pillow and shoe orthotics, and whatever else gets your back through the day.
- Hit the road! Gentle low back and leg stretches before you head into cottage-bound traffic are a smart idea. Wear comfortable clothes for the drive so that you can easily stretch on your breaks, and like the sign on the roadside diner, 'no shirt, no shoes, no service' applies. Good, comfortable shoes are important for, uh, comfort, and to prevent accidents, and shirts... well, topless only refers to convertibles.
- Now that we have covered the thoracic region, we must discuss the lumbar spine and proper sitting. Fancy cars (like my old '96 Pontiac Sunfire) have a lumbar support - pump this up to your comfort. In lieu of an internal lumbar support, a lumbar roll or ObusForme back support is best. In a pinch, put a t-shirt or small pillow behind your low back. The point is to encourage and maintain the curve in the small of your back. Unfortunately without some support, driving causes the low back to unwind into a C-shape, and allows the hamstrings to shorten.
- So... stretch those hamstrings! It is not always possible to stop the car when you want to, and trust me, you don't want to be sorry for not making a pit stop when you had the chance! Plan ahead to take a break before you absolutely need to, for restroom and back spasm reasons both. Take these opportunities to stretch your legs literally. This should be repeated at each stop, and again at the end of the day. Also, try eating a salad instead of another burger.
- After a long day of driving, check into your luxury motel and try not to think of those investigative TV programs that use a fluorescent light to reveal all the 'mystery stains' on the bedding and carpet. Don't be afraid to ask the front desk if any of the rooms have a newer mattress and let them know if yours is particularly lumpy or sinky... or consider splurging for a decent hotel, cheapskate! Take time to lay out on a towel or yoga mat (or the carpet if you dare!) and properly stretch out your low back and legs. Try to relax and get some sleep so you are safe on the road for the next day, and consider bringing your own orthopedic pillow for proper neck support and/or germ prevention.
Drive safely, remember to call your mother when you arrive, and enjoy yourself! And if your back should fail you, remember to stretch gently, apply ice for 15 minutes at a time and give up the wheel for a bit while someone else drives. Don't be shy to look up a local chiropractor - we are everywhere! Finally, please enjoy the following road trip video...
...posted because although it is embarrassing to me, it is hopefully more embarrassing to my sister (if you thought this was bad, ask to see the Total Eclipse of the Heart video... painful). Note also: driving with your leg on the dashboard should be discouraged for the negative effects on the lumbar spine and the danger of losing said leg should your sister drive into a ditch.
Fittingly, it turns out the correct words are: "it oughta be illegal".