Long car rides and body aches are no foreign concept to those with long commutes. As we approach the long weekend (can you believe it's already Labor Day?!) I wanted to arm you all with some tools to help you with long car rides. You can even do most of these for long plane rides.


Some of the most common complaints I hear from people include back tightness, neck and shoulder tension, hip flexor and hamstring tightness, and even pain related to sciatic symptoms. Here are some moves and stretches you can do to help keep these complaints at a minimum so you can enjoy your vacation how you're supposed to!


10 Exercises to Do While Stopping on a Road Trip

  1. Shoulder Shrug

    Raise your shoulders toward your ears, then shrug down to release them. Next, inch them back by bringing your shoulder blades together. That’s one rep; do 10 to 15 reps. Do two sets.

  2. Waiter Tips
    Position your elbows at 90 degrees and palms faced upwards directly in front. Rotate your arms away from your body using your shoulder blade and shoulders, while keeping your elbows by your side. You should feel this behind the shoulder blades and in between them. Do 10-15 reps. 

  3. Cross-Body Stretch

    Reach your right arm across your body to the left. Hold your right arm with your left arm for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm. Do 2 sets.

  4. Cat/Cow 

    Place your arms on the top of your steering wheel. Arch your back, and then collapse to curve forward. That’s one rep; do 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps. By having your arms on the wheel, you’ll feel a stretch through your upper back, too. It’s a nice way to get a little bit of movement in the spine without having to leave the car.

  5. Hip Flexor Stretch

    Stand with your left foot about 12 inches in front of your right foot. Tuck your tailbone beneath you and slightly shift your weight forward over the left leg while keeping both feet pointed forward and your front leg slightly bent. Tighten your right glute and hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. That’s one rep; do two to three sets on each side.

  6. Calf Stretch

    Place your hands against the outside of your car and stand with your left foot about 12 inches in front of your right foot. Lean forward by shifting your weight onto the left leg but try to keep the right heel against the ground and both feet pointed forward. You should feel the stretch in your upper calf. Next, slightly bend your right knee to stretch the lower part of your calf. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. That’s one rep; do two.

  7. Pec stretch
    Stand next to your car with the outside leg slightly in front. Place your inner arm on top of the car about shoulder height and behind you. Gently turn away from it, keeping your shoulder blade pulled towards your spine. Hold ~30 seconds or as tolerated. Do 2 sets.

  8. Calf Raises
    On a break outside of the car, push up onto your toes with straight knees and lower. Using the calf is a great way to promote blood flow after being stagnant in a position for a while! Do 2 sets of 8-12 reps.

  9. Figure-4 Stretch
    If your car height allows, sit facing outwards to allow for space. Cross one ankle on the opposite knee, sit tall and hinge forward. You should feel a stretch in that glute. Hold 30 seconds. Do 2 sets.

  10. Squats
    One of the best moves you can do for daily function is a squat! Take a break from the car and perform 10-15 bodyweight squats to a depth you feel comfortable lowering to. This will allow some actual muscle work to take place and provide relief to joints that like movement, like the hips, knees, and back. Do 2 sets of 8-12 reps. 

Other tips:

  • Keep a lumbar support close if you need it. Fill the space in the low back and raise the chair if you have low back pain. This will help reduce pressure on the low back if it's sensitive. 
  • Get close(r) to the pedals. Reaching with one leg can bring on sciatic symptoms when this nerve is aggravated. Keep a soft bend in the knee while using the gas pedal. 
  • Utilize cruise control. This can decrease calf tightness and any plantar fascia discomfort related to it!
  • Place hands at 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock when able or periodically (instead of 10 and 2) for decreased shoulder and neck tension. 

Above all, remember to stay hydrated, drive safely, and have fun!! It's been a long year. Enjoy the vacation!



Was this helpful? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section!



Dr. Leada