5 Ways to Be Road-Trip Ready with Arthritis

Planning a few road trips to visit friends and family during the holidays? Don’t let arthritis pain disrupt your plans.

These tips to deal with back, hip, leg, and knee pain can help you arrive with less pain and more holiday cheer:

Be prepared for road trips with these pain relief tips.

  1. Swap your prescription pain medications with OTC options.

    Your regular prescription pain medications may not be advisable to take when you're driving. Try substituting them with over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), or NSAIDs with ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin) or naproxen (Aleve). Talk with your doctor if you have specific concerns about your medications while traveling.

  2. Get comfortable right away.

    When your seating area is properly adjusted before you even pull out of the driveway, you can prevent small irritations from becoming major pain miles down the road.

    If your seat is not fully supportive or comfortable, place a rolled-up towel or pillow behind your lower back. If your pain affects your legs or hips too, you can look for specialty cushions that are designed to provide support for the lumbar spine, hips, and buttocks.

    Empty your back pockets so you're sitting squarely in the seat, and sit as close as you safely can to the steering column. This will keep stress off your neck, shoulders, arms, and wrists.

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  1. Use an ice pack and/or heating pad.

    When your back or other joints start to hurt, applying heat to the affected area can ease the pain. You have a few options for how to supply heat while on the road. You can:

    • Turn on the seat warmer, if your car has this feature
    • Bring a hot water bottle, which can be refilled during rest stops
    • Get a heating pad that's powered by a car adapter
    • Use heat wraps such as ThermaCare

    If your pain is accompanied by inflammation, you can also apply an ice pack for 20 minutes. You can keep it cool in a cooler until you need it. Remember, don't apply ice directly; use a towel or another barrier to protect your skin.

  2. Get out and stretch.

    Give yourself a break from your sitting position and get blood moving again by taking advantage of rest stops to stretch and get a little exercise. As your joint pain allows, do hamstring stretches by leaning against your car or a wall and keeping one leg straight out behind you, heel flat on the ground. Hamstring stretches are particularly good for low back pain.

    If your knees hurt, try these gentle stretches to ease the pain: Knee Stretches. And don't forget to stretch achy arms and shoulders: Shoulder Stretches.

    Also, take a short walk by doing a few laps around the parking lot. Just be careful of traffic.

  3. Take a break and let others drive.

    If you're traveling with someone else who can drive, switch drivers so you can rest and shift position. You may even want to lie down and rest in the back seat. Taking a nap may be an effective way to limit pain.

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Post written by Carrie DeVries