Do you travel often? Are you sitting in a car, plane or train for extended amounts of time? If you are doing your best to take care of yourself physically chances are when you travel and step out of the usual day to day routine it can become a challenge to avoid aches and pains in your hips, lower back, neck or shoulders.
Sitting for long periods of a time on a plane, car with poor posture (insert your usual travel transportation method), sleeping in a different bed and eating on the go can create inflammation, stress and muscle tension. These factors increase the risk of throwing off your musculoskeletal alignment (AND throw off your travel vibes!!)
As a side note- when your musculoskeletal alignment is “off”, digestion, sleep and emotional issues usually follow!
So-while an individual assessment of your posture is THE best way to truly determine what your specific body needs, let’s talk about a few ground rules that can make a big difference during your next excursion around town or hopping over to Hawaii!
Most seats form a “bucket” or as I loving like to describe it, they will dump you into the seat. This takes our natural curve (properly called lumbar lordosis) and reduces it putting undue strain and pressure on the spinal discs and sacroiliac joint. This position also turns off your abdominal activation and core muscles that help protect us from discomfort.
In most cars (and chairs for that matter) you will notice your knees are higher than your hips and you are sitting more so on your tailbone. This position makes it incredibly hard work to maintain a “good” posture for long.
You can see in the picture: The front of the seat is higher than the back part making the knees higher than the hips. This distributes the weight towards the tailbone.Increases thoracic flexion and collapses the front of the chest.
Tip Number One Some cars/trucks have adjustments where you can lower the front edge of the driver’s seat. This can be a helpful move to start getting the knees and hips aligned (instead of knees higher). With just this small adjustment you will notice there is more support in the lower back and it is easier to sit in a better posture. Most people are familiar with the lumbar support cushion. If you have one, super! BUT it does not adequately address attaining optimal alignment. Only by adjusting the position of your pelvis can you achieve optimal results as it is the foundation when it comes to sitting! So, back to the first adjustment! Here is how my posture has changed by using the power adjustment on the seat: Notice the front of the seat is slightly lower, making the knees more in line with the hips. Abdominal muscles are naturally more active supporting alignment. The chest is more open and less flexion in the mid spine.
Tip Number Two If you do not have said fancy accessories on your ride OR of that is not enough to relieve discomfort and pressure, let’s move on. Getting a small rectangular pillow, a thin towel (or hand towels) and fold it/roll it into a long rectangle. You can also splurge and purchase a wedge cushion. I do suggest trying the towel roll first though to make sure this tip works for your body. Place the towel roll at the back side of your seat. Next, sit so that your tailbone is directly on top/towards the front of this towel roll or small pillow. This will further elevate your pelvis, creating a slight anterior pelvic tilt (brings the natural curve of your lumbar spine back). See the picture here: The seat adjustment is still utilized so the front part of the seat is slightly lower. I do have my left knee bent, but hips are more in line with the knees. Chest is open and shoulders are able to draw back reducing that thoracic flexion/hypnosis. **I did not sit upright on the towel roll and so the abdominal muscles are not as activated as they could be. Some of this is because of having a long torso! See below!
Tip Number Three Some people at this time still like using their lumbar support cushion in addition to the towel roll and/or the car seat adjustments. Go for it!
Tip Number Four I learned this tip from my own Physical Therapist (YES! A PT must have a personal PT) Krysia Witkowski, owner of Integrative Manual Therapy and Wellness. Usually because of a variety of factors, including but not limited to, stretching the leg towards the gas pedal there is a slight rotation in the pelvis and poor abdominal activation these two factors are needed to protect and stabilize the spine, hips, neck and shoulders from discomfort. To use simple terms-if you are sitting in the car and look down at your hips one hip may be slightly back and the other slightly forward creating a slight rotation. That small rotation can create a world of ouch in the sacroiliac joint, coccyx/tailbone, lower back and anything above if we stay there for too long. So, if you find you are doing this, make a small shift. One example would be to plant the left foot and pull slightly back towards your buttock (activating your hamstring and left abdominal wall) helping to reduce a right rotated pelvis. See demonstration here: My foot stays planted as I gently pull back activating the abdominals and straightening the pelvic rotation.
Again- in order to fully find relief and optimal alignment, it is important to have a trained eye formally help you. If you are experiencing pain or symptoms that are not going away on their own, please seek out a highly skilled Physical Therapist (or practitioner of your choice). Email me and I can assist with this.
If you wish to reduce all forms of physical and mental stress by shining a bright light on hidden stressors in your life then together we can meet in person or online (by using videos and pictures prior to and during a Zoom online session) to find your optimal standing and sitting posture as well as address other unknown stressors and start creating more success, clarity, balance and joy. WHO you are being when you are driving also plays into posture.
If someone is tired- it shows in their posture. If they are angry…it shows. Our emotions and thoughts play into our posture, our core stability and strength.
If the musculoskeletal alignment is being compromised then internal organs have a harder time functioning effectively and thus it creates a big loop back to a strain on our emotional stress level. It is a big hamster wheel and there are simple, easy techniques to help you get out of the cycle. So, try these tips! Let me know how they work for you and if you need additional support to optimize your wellness, let’s talk!