fbpx Are we there yet? 5 Ways to make your Holiday Travel Painless - Chiro One
Are we there yet? 5 Ways to make your holiday travel painless

Luckily, you no longer need to trek over the river and through the woods to get to Grandma’s house for Turkey Day. But you may need to spend hours traversing highways, dirt roads and construction terrains, along with 54 million Americans1 that will be road tripping to their family feasts.

Reduce travel stress and fatigue all the way to your host’s doorstep by following proper ergonomics (the science of designing and arranging things so that they interact most safely and efficiently with humans). We’ll help you interact most safely and efficiently with your car, so you’re in a better mood when it’s time to interact with Grandma. 

Pack this Pain-Free Road Trip Ergonomics Cheat Sheet to protect your muscles, tendons and joints so you can join the clan in body-friendly celebration. 

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Get Comfortable

Make sure your travel outfit is loose with multiple layers (you may need to take them on and off as your body temperature changes with sun levels and naps).  Before climbing into your vehicle, empty your back pockets — sitting on your wallet, phone, or anything else for an extended time can put your pelvis and spine in an awkward position, which can cause lower back and hip pain.  

Pack reusable water bottles and healthy protein-packed snacks in easily accessible containers that the whole family can grab without straining or twisting.  
Stretch a bit before climbing in, then sit up straight with your knees slightly higher than your hips. Be sure to keep your chin lifted and pulled in so that your head sits straight on top of your spine.  

Grab a car seat pillow or coccyx cushion to provide more padding between you and the road. Try to make small adjustments to your posture every 30-60 minutes to help reduce joint stiffness and pain. No, you don’t have to stop driving every time; simply adjust your seat height or wheel position to give your body a break.

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Make your Seating as Posture-Friendly as Possible

Whether you’re behind the wheel or behind the glove box, sitting in the wrong position can cause stiffness, discomfort and joint pain, which can eventually stress you out. To keep your road trip upbeat and body-friendly try adjusting your:

  • Seat height: Decrease back flexion by raising your seat until your hips and knees are aligned.
  • Seat angle: Reduce disc pressure in your lower back by setting the backrest recline at a 100–110-degree angle. Move the seat forward until you can press the pedals through their complete range of motion with your entire foot, not just your toes. 
  • Headrest: Prevent neck and head strain (or whiplash in the case of an accident) by aligning your headrest with the top of your head.
  • Steering wheel position: Reduce strain on your neck, shoulders, and back by keeping your steering wheel at a distance that that doesn’t fully extend your arms — ideally, at a 120-degree bend with your palms just lower than your shoulders.  Your breastbone should be at least 10 inches from the steering wheel, which you should be holding at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. 

Nurture Your Feet

To avoid lower back stress, place your feet on a firm surface and at the optimal height, keeping your knees at a right angle (hips in line with your knees, knees in line with your ankles). If your seat is too high to do so, try using a footrest. 

If you’re the driver, make sure you can press the brake and accelerator pedals without moving your body away from the backrest — and without having to shift or cut off circulation on the back of your legs. 

Pay attention to your back to ensure it never moves away from the seat. Arching your back to access the pedals repeatedly over many hours can cause discomfort and stiffness.  Leverage cruise control so you can keep both feet firmly on the floor for extended periods. The ergonomics of pedaling may seem basic, but they’re critical to pain-free driving. 

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Plan Stop-n-Stretch Breaks

If you like to push yourself to cover as many miles as possible without stopping, consider a different endurance game. Continuous sitting can be really taxing on your body, so make sure to factor regular breaks into your travel time (you never know what sites, snacks or laughs may await at those trusted rest stops).  

If possible, stop every hour or two, even if only for a few minutes. To exit your vehicle, swing your legs outward instead of twisting your back, which can cause strain and discomfort.  

Breathe in the fresh air deeply, then do a few stretches and exercises in or outside your car during pit stops (ideally, without causing gaper’s block.) Staying in tune with your body’s needs can relieve stress and boost your mood to make you a more cheerful, welcome guest upon arrival. 

Try this quick and easy Side Body Extension: 

  • Stand up straight 
  • Grab your left wrist with your right hand
  • Lean to the right, sending a big stretch down your arm, shoulders, and ribs
  • Move your hips to the right, stretching into your lower back
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Unload Strategically

Ah the arrival!  The greetings and hugs make all that effort worthwhile.  Before you begin unpacking, remind yourself to practice these safe lifting tips: 

  • Don’t bend forward. Bend your hips and knees, like you’re doing a squat to pick up bulky items. 
  • Keep luggage and bulky items close to your mid-section, then straighten to lift.
  • Distribute the weight evenly between both hands to decrease stress on your neck, shoulders and back.
  • Don’t overdo it! That extra trip back to the car can prevent injury (and even potential cranberry sauce crashes).

We hope these tips give you one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season: pain-free fun with family and friends!

Post-Celebration Soreness or Discomfort?

Check in with your nearest Chiro One doc at one of our welcoming open-plan clinics across the country. They’ll uncover the root cause of your pain with a thorough exam, then personalize a care plan — a combination of gentle chiropractic adjustments and active therapies — to get you feeling better faster.

Schedule your appointment with one of our Chiro One doctors today.


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/372271/number-of-thanksgiving-holiday-travelers-us/

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