After a few hours in the car, your body may crack and creak, often painfully. What is it about a simple automobile ride that can cause such dreadful muscle soreness? You are at risk of developing soreness any time you stay in one position for an extended period of time. Some of the most common causes of this muscle soreness are:
● Lack of movement;
● Decreased blood flow;
● Prolonged pressure on nerves; and
● Pre-existing medical conditions including arthritis, obesity, sciatica, peripheral vascular disease and recurrent back pain, among others.
Aggravating muscle soreness can be minimized with a little know-how. As you plan your car trip, consider simple ways to make your journey more comfortable for you and your passengers.
● Get out and move. Stop and get out of the car every two hours. By simply walking around at a gas station or rest area, you change your static sitting posture in the car.
● Switch drivers. Surprisingly, the most static position is the driver’s. Switch drivers often so each person in the car can benefit from stretching and moving in the passenger seat.
● Adjust your seat. Reclining the seat too far can lead to muscle imbalances and soreness. Properly adjust your seat so that your head is positioned squarely above your shoulders. Some individuals increase overall support by adding cushions to the upper portion of the seat.
● Get some support. A small lumbar pillow at the small of your back can help you if you have a bad back. Take two support pillows, one larger than the other. Use one pillow for 20 minutes—the other pillow for 20 minutes—and no pillow for 20 minutes. Sequencing the pillows avoids maintaining a single posture for too long.
● Finish with a little TLC. Follow up your car ride with a walk, heating pad or warm bath to help loosen up joints and muscles.
If the problem doesn’t go away after a few days or becomes worse over time, however, it could be more than simple muscle soreness. If changing positions doesn’t relieve the pain, if the pain prevents you from or interrupts your sleeping, if the pain is severe and sudden or if you are unable to bear weight on a limb, seek medical attention.