Traveling in an RV with Chronic Back Pain


Chronic back pain, particularly the lower back, is incredibly common today.

Guest blogger Haley Kieser explains how we can manage chronic back pain while traveling in our RVs.

Back pain can arise from circumstances beyond your control, such as old injuries, aging, or chronic diseases.

Sciatica is the name for one of the most common forms of back pain. It refers to the sciatic nerve that runs most of the length of the lower body, and irritation to it can cause chronic pain in several locations. Usually sciatica is the result of compression on the nerve that can occur from multiple sources. It’s often associated with hip or leg pain that worsens when sitting down, a numbness or tingling in the lower back that’s accompanied by aches or pain, or shooting pains that make it difficult to stand.

Back pain can be obstacle for any vacation, but as most who are living with it know, it doesn’t have to prevent you from enjoying yourself. Here are some tips on how to maximize your RV adventure and minimize your road trip woes.

Before You Start

When preparing for a road trip in an RV, or potentially any other vehicle, you’ll need to prevent aggravation and irritation in every step of the process. This includes the very beginning: packing for the trip. Taking it in piecemeal is key to preventing back pain flare ups. If it’s possible, use a few smaller bags, rather than one larger, heavy one, on the same principle. It’s also important not to twist while lifting heavy objects into the vehicle, as it puts undue stress on other parts of the back that can injure the lower back. Pivot your entire body, feet included, to approach each heavy object.

Furthermore, on the preparation front, you should pack accordingly in terms of medication. If you have a prescription for your back pain, pack it in an easy-access area. You don’t want to have to unload half the RV, only making it worse, to remedy the ache. Also pack a supply of over the counter medication, either in case of the emergency where your prescription has run out, or for the smaller aches that don’t warrant it. This should also be kept closer on-hand, for convenience and necessity.

In the planning stages of your journey, you need to establish how long you can bear sitting in the same position. Whether you’re the driver or not, breaks should be planned to allow everyone to stretch their muscles and move about on the journey. Don’t attempt to test your limits with discomfort, so provide hard limits on how long you’ll drive or ride before the next stop. Use the stops to stretch and readjust seats as necessary.

The Trip

Use any lower back support items you might have—whether it’s a dedicated pillow, a rolled-up towel, or a commercial cushion—in your chair from the very beginning. Using a support only when you’ve started to have pain means it’s already too late. Stay hydrated during your journey, and if necessary, lay down in the cabin area of the RV. Use ice packs to numb irritated areas or reducing swelling. Keep a significant amount of ice handy for this possibility, as road trips make it difficult to restock reliably. Use heating pads as an alternative, to prevent irritation from ice.

While riding or driving, find a posture that minimizes back pain, provided it’s also safe to travel in. Don’t double over in the passenger’s seat, as the airbag can seriously injure you if you aren’t sitting in a position at least resembling upright. Use your feet as a basis for posture, bending your legs at a right angle and letting your soles sit flat on the floor of the vehicle. Lower chronic back pain can be the result of poor posture, and posture begins with the positioning of your feet.

Safe travels,

Carol Ann

2 thoughts on “Traveling in an RV with Chronic Back Pain”

  1. Linda Costanzo

    I have everything from spinal stenosis, herniated disc, pinched nerve etc! What I also find happens on trips is that my feet and ankles swell like water balloons. Any advice for that?

    1. I assume you are a passenger? It’s important to stop regularly, walk around and get the blood flowing. If you are a passenger can you set up a bit of a foot stool to raise you feet. There are also exercises a person can do when they are sitting. Have you considered compression socks? Don’t have long travel days. These are what comes to mind immediately. I wish you well – keep traveling!

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