Once a year we pack up the kids, our truck camper full of food and clothes and drive out west.  So what do an ER doc and a family doc do to prevent health hazards of long road trips?  Over the years we have both cared for patients with pulmonary embolisms, DVT (deep vein thrombosis) blood clots in the legs, compression fractures and back problems arising from extended travel by car or plane.  Most of these issues are indeed preventable and are caused by prolonged sitting and inactivity.  Whether traveling by car or plane, immobility is your enemy.   Move around! If flying, get up once every 1-2 hours, walk down the isles, stretch your legs.  If driving stop every 2-3 hours to walk and stretch.  Take an aspirin 325mg at the onset of the trip and each day you will be in the car more than four hours.

Next, bring yoga mats! Each evening an morning, try to spend twenty minutes or so stretching out  your hamstrings and back.  I do sun salutations and a basic yoga routine, feeling taller (which matters when you’re 5 ft 2 in!)  and more flexible when I’m done each time.   We also travel with methocarbamol, a prescription muscle relaxer that does not cause drowsiness.

Make sure your car seat has good lumbar support, I bring a portable beanbag lumbar cushion as well.  Consider driving with compression socks, these will minimize ankle swelling and risk of lower leg blood clots.  Last, break up your drive with interspersed short walks or hikes if you can!