A blue car drives alone on a road with mountains in the background. It is releasing a thought bubble with a pillow, neck pillow, and heating pad.

Road Tripping with Psoriatic Arthritis: Keeping My Neck and Spine Happy

I miss traveling so much that I jumped at the opportunity when my husband suggested that I tag along on a whirlwind business road trip.

Our adventure from southern to northern California made me realize how much road trips have changed for me. Over the course of 20 years, I went from driving across state lines to rarely being able to drive 45 miles.

A PsA passenger...

Although psoriatic arthritis is not the main reason for driving so little, it doesn’t help. Combined, fibromyalgia, abdominal pain from bowel endometriosis, and PsA make even just being a passenger a painful experience.

This impromptu road trip provided an opportunity to see if what I have implemented on our hourly drives to Disneyland this past year would be enough to keep my body happy on a long journey.

Neck pain prevention

As I shared in an earlier post, my neck is the second most painful area I experience PsA pain. And while my neck brace provides comfort after it begins flaring, it does nothing to prevent the pain.

California is notorious for its awful roads. The only way you’ll find one without potholes is if you arrive the moment after they have been freshly paved or filled.

To combat neck pain as a passenger, I place a neck pillow around the base of the seat’s headrest. This provides support. In addition, I strap a small pillow, sometimes one of those cute squishable pillows, others a small memory foam pillow, to the headrest.

The shape or size really doesn’t matter as much as the softness. That pillow limits the amount of impact the back of my skull receives when it bounces off of the headrest. Now, when I say bounce, I am not suggesting that my husband drives like Cruella DeVille, but the natural bouncing that occurs when driving over crappy roads.

I also use a USB-powered neck warmer to help reduce reactionary pain by keeping the muscles relaxed. Last but not least, I carry hemp lotion in my care bag and apply it as needed.

Spine pain prevention

My lower spine and sacrum are where my PsA is the worst. It also doesn’t help that I have a few degenerative discs in the area and have broken my tailbone not once but twice. The key is not to upset the site because it takes days, sometimes weeks, to recover once it flares.

Our car is nothing fancy, but it does have terrific seats. I have never had an issue with riding in it for long periods. Because of that, I forgot that not every car is the same, and it didn’t cross my mind when we picked up our rental.

Between the rough roads and highways and lack of seat cushioning, my entire spine was throbbing after seven hours of traveling. I felt like my bottom had been dragging on the pavement for the whole trip.

Keep your care bag within reach

The pain was so intense that I dreaded the trip home. Not wanting to increase the pain, I began brainstorming ways to make the ride more comfortable. Then while maneuvering the rough roads with my power wheelchair near our hotel to grab a cup of coffee, the solution became clear.

If the seat cushion for the power wheelchair was protecting my tailbone and spine as I bounced across the street, it should be perfect for the ride home! And combined with a USB-powered heating pad on my back, it was!!

Whether you use a wheelchair or not, invest in a good seat cushion if your tailbone and spine are as sensitive as mine. My cushion is filled with memory foam and has a gel insert for added comfort. I paid less than $50 for it. Best money ever spent!

The best thing anyone can do is to keep their care bag with all their illness and pain management tools within reach. By doing so, I was able to address symptoms as they appeared.

What are some preventative measures that you take to ward off PsA neck and spine pain in the car?

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