Tips and stretches from Rikhi Anandsongkit and his team of physiotherapists.
It’s that time of the year! Pack your swimming clothes, buy your new water guns, and get ready for Songkran. For many of you, this is another great chance to get out of Bangkok, which often means that someone is going to be driving – a lot.
Unfortunately, one thing we often see with people who spend a lot of time behind the wheel is back pain or stiffness. Although driving may not be strenuous, doing it for long periods of time exposes the body to many different forces, such as acceleration, sudden stops, and most notably, vibrations from the road. It also involves the use of your feet to control the car’s pedals, which means they are not being used to help stabilise and support your lower body, as they normally would when you’re sitting.
It’s small wonder that a combination of these factors, as well as the inadequate designs of some vehicle seats, can cause back problems for many of us, which can make driving unpleasant (and in some cases, unbearable)! Here are five tips to help make your Songkran holidays as pain-free as possible:
1. Get Comfortable Before You Drive
A small irritation can quickly grow into unbearable pain, so before you set off, take a few moments to settle into a comfortable position. Check your mirrors and adjust your seat – this is particularly important if you share your car, as these may have been changed by another driver.
Make sure your seat is only slightly reclined so that it feels natural to sit comfortably – think a 100-degree angle instead of 90. On the other hand, don’t recline your seat too far, as your head won’t be able to comfortably rest against the headrest, which can cause tension in your neck and upper back.
2. Adjust Your Mirrors
Making sure your mirrors are in the right position is especially important so you don’t have to move or twist to see out of them properly. As a general rule, you should only have to move your eyes to be able to see out of your mirrors.
Tip: Adjust them while sitting up straight – you’ll lose vision in the mirrors if you begin to slouch, which will act as a reminder to sit up.
3. Use a Towel for Support
For additional support while driving, roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back. Car seats don’t often support the curve of your back. By using a towel, you’ll maintain good posture, making back pain less likely to creep in.
4. Take Regular Breaks
Stopping regularly (around every hour) to move and stretch will help ease any tension and reduce any muscle stiffness. There’s definitely no shortage of PTTs on the road!
Here are some simple stretches you can do during your breaks:
Seated Buttocks Stretch
In your seat, open your door and sit facing out with your feet on the ground. Keeping your back straight, lift your left leg and place your left ankle on your right knee. Lean forward slightly to deepen the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Arms Behind Head
Standing up, interlock your fingers and place your palms on the back of your head, keeping your elbows bent. Gently squeeze your shoulders blades together and move your elbows backwards. Hold for 10 seconds, then gently bring them forward. Repeat 3-5 times.
Stand up with your feet set slightly wider than your shoulders. Raise your left arm up and sideways over your head. At the same time, reach down with your right arm and bend your upper body down towards your right-hand side, feeling the stretch on your left lats. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side, and then repeat this set 3-5 times.
There you have it. A few simple tips to ease your back pain when driving out of town this Songkran break!
Rikhi Anandsongkit is the owner of Form Physio and Rehab, a physiotherapy clinic that helps adults in Bangkok get back to doing the things they love without painkillers, injections, and surgeries. He and his team of physical therapists are happy to answer any questions about back pain by phone 095-569-3298 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit them at their clinics in Sukhumvit Soi 20 or Sukhumvit Soi 49, or learn more from their website, www.formphysiorehab.com.