avoid back and neck pain in the car

By David J. BenEliyahu DC, DABCSP, DAAPM

Back & Neck Pain on the Road Blog PhotoIf you suffer from neck or back pain, riding in the car for more than an hour can be a real challenge. If you plan on traveling this summer, consider the following tips to minimize back and neck pain.

  1. Get comfortable from the start
    • If you normally keep your wallet in your back pocket, remove it — do not sit on it.
    • Sit as close to the steering wheel as is comfortable for you to reduce stress on the lower back caused by reaching for the pedals. Remember that it is recommended to keep a 10-inch distance from the airbag cover on your steering wheel to the driver.
    • Sit up straight, and make sure your back is aligned against your seat. Your knees should be slightly higher than your hips. Consider using a lumbar support cushion or even a small rolled towel to achieve optimal posture.
    • Use your car’s cruise control when on highways to allow you to keep both feet on the floor.
  2. Make your ride as smooth as possible
    • Check and replace any worn shock absorbers to limit the amount of bounce in the car.
    • Replace any worn tires and check for optimal air pressure.
    • Bring ice packs or a moist heating pad with a power converter to help reduce muscle spasm, pain, and inflammation.
  3. Take frequent breaks to walk and stretch
    • If possible, stop after every hour to hour and a half to move around. Movement stimulates circulation to your neck and back.
    • Share the driving to reduce fatigue and strain.
  4. Take your mind off your pain
    • If you are the driver, listen to an audio book or download a podcast. If you are a passenger, try meditating or watching a movie on your tablet. Occupying your mind often shifts your focus away from pain.


David J. BenEliyahu, DC, DAAPM, DABCSP is the Administrative Director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital.