Traveling can be bad for your back and neck health — but it doesn’t have to be. Frequent travelers and vacationers can prevent backaches, stiff necks, and overall soreness by steering clear of some classic mistakes. For example, they pack way too much, and then strain their back pulling and lifting their suitcases (Do you really need all those outfits? Will you really read five books in a week?). They wear stylish but impractical shoes for flying, and then hurt themselves walking a quarter mile or more inside the airport. Or they schedule way too much physical activity into their trip –trapeze lessons, beach volleyball, exploring the rainforest — and are then miserable because their bodies aren’t accustomed to this rigor.

Back pain is not trivial. It is the most common type of pain Americans experience, according to the National Institute of Health Statistics survey. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain. It is also the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. The CDC reports that adults with low back pain were three times as likely to be in fair or poor health and more than four times as likely to experience serious psychological distress as people without low back pain.
Unfortunately, some of the best opportunities to hurt your back and neck actually happen on vacation — while you’re in the car, on the plane, or sleeping on a lousy hotel bed. Here are some travel tips to keep your spine healthy.
Sit right.
Adjusting your car seat helps you avoid stiffness, strains, and soreness after a long drive. Put your seat back in the upright position (not at 90 degrees but a little more like 105 degrees), not leaning back so you look out the backseat window. Move the whole seat forward and tilt it so your feet are flat on the floor and the knees are elevated slightly higher than your hips.
Look in the mirror.
A great way to make sure you are sitting upright and not slouching is to adjust the rearview mirror in the morning. When we wake up, we are at our tallest because our spine is fully hydrated. We also aren’t pooped from work and hunched forward. Then don’t touch the mirror again. Adjust your posture to meet the mirror — not the other way around. This will reduce neck strain and fatigue during the day.