Handling the Long Haul
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
Let me begin by saying that I’m not referring to long-haul COVID, although that would make a pretty good topic these days. What I’m referring to is the inevitable long haul, often with kids, to reach your favorite summer vacation spot, or when you’re just going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. My kids are grown now, but I well remember those trips, and will admit that they were, at times, arduous. I thought I’d share a few tips about how to make traveling by car a bit more enjoyable, and easier on the body, not to mention the mind.
One thing I would suggest is to plan regular intervals at which you get out of the car, stretch your legs, your back, and your children. Perhaps it is once every hour to two hours that you pull over and take a little stretch break. You can make it a formal affair during which you do stretching exercises, but you might look like a bit of a weirdo at a rest area, not that that ever prevented me from doing it. Perhaps it is just a matter of taking a little walk around the park or a rest area. I think the point is that one can be focused solely on the destination, but, alternatively, it’s a healthy thing to focus on the trip itself. If you are traveling with kids and, if it is a bit trying, remember that they grow up quickly and try to have fun getting there.
In the days before cell phones and video screens in the car, we always made sure that the kids had games, books, or other things to occupy them. I will admit that as soon as videos became available, we were chain-smoking them. I suppose, even if you are pretty strict about screen time for the kids, that a long road trip might be a time to loosen those constraints. Try bringing some projects and games that do not involve computer screens.
One of the biggest problems about road trips is that, inevitably, the food that is available on the road can be, shall we say, less than optimal. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Cracker Barrel, to name just a few, have their place in the culinary Pantheon, but a regular diet of such food is likely to make you even crankier than you might already be. My people never go anywhere without our own food. This means that we pack drinks, snacks (fruit, vegetables, nuts, and sundry natural munchables), and things like sandwiches and protein drinks so that we are not entirely at the whim of the road. I’m not saying that you should never stop at McDonald’s, but I am saying that doing so should be an exception, rather than the rule. Your brain and your waistline will both thank you.
Have you ever had the experience of falling asleep in the car, or on an airplane, with your head kinked over to one side, and were then plagued with a stiff neck for the next week? If so, you might want to consider getting a neck support pillow to allow you to sleep in the car, or on a plane, more comfortably. And while we are on the subject of comfort, I would also suggest getting and using an inflatable low back (lumbar) support. They are inexpensive and can make a tremendous difference in your comfort and longevity when you’re traveling long distances. At Chiropractic Health and Wellness we have lumbar support cushions that will save your hide. On a related note, if you have a favorite pillow that allows you to sleep more comfortably and wake up with less pain, then you might want to consider packing it. When at all possible, I bring my own pillow. It’s a simple matter, especially if traveling by car, and it can make a very big difference in how you feel when you arrive.
Okay, so the kids are entertained because they are watching some video with headphones on, or are otherwise engaged, but what about you? We have found that having an engaging audiobook that you and your partner can agree upon (key point here) makes the time pass more quickly. In fact, there have been times when we didn’t want the trip to end because we hadn’t finished our book yet. There are services, like Audible, that have literally thousands of books to choose from, and it’s not very expensive compared to the price of gas. Of course, most newer cars also have Sirius or other streaming services available so that you can be spared having to channel surf across vast open stretches of this country.
One last thing, I used to strain my arm repeatedly when reaching into the back seat to discipline children. I finally ordered a manikin arm from Amazon and found that I could reach them more easily with that, plus it was a source of terror and amusement. Actually, I’m just kidding, but maybe grandma wouldn’t mind babysitting for a little bit so you and your partner can actually have a relaxing vacation together.
However you choose to do it, summer vacation trips are almost always memorable. I’m sure most of you can remember trips that you took as children. Hopefully the above tips will help make your time together healthier and happier.
If after you return from vacation you find some new aches and pains, give us a call to see how we can use chiropractic care to provide relief naturally, without drugs.