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Try These 9 Car Stretches to Ease Pain During Your Holiday Travels

Hitting the road for the holidays? These easy car stretches are perfect for pit stops.

Odds are if you’re traveling this holiday season, a long car ride may be in your future. Many of us experience neck, back or hip stiffness as a result of the prolonged sitting a road trip requires.

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“Movement is key,” says Max Castrogaleas, MA, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at HSS. “While you may not be able to minimize the time spent sitting during your travels, try your best to get your body moving by incorporating stretch breaks every time you make a rest or fuel stop.”

The good news is that there are ways to get relief, as well as to maintain or improve your overall mobility, with some simple stretches that can be done in your car or next to it. When done correctly, you’ll feel a gentle stretch in the targeted muscle. If you feel strain or pain in a joint rather than a muscle, stop.

Seated Shoulder Stretch

  • Seated in your call, sit tall and reach your left arm across your chest.
  • Use your right arm to gently draw your left arm closer to your chest while maintaining good posture.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: For this stretch, you should feel it across the back of the shoulder and arm.

Seated Forearm Stretch

photo of seated forearm stretch

  • Seated in your car, sit tall and bring one arm straight out in front of you with the elbow straight and palm facing up.
  • Gently pull the fingers toward your body to feel the stretch on your forearm.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Be sure to keep your elbow straight and maintain good posture as you press on your hand.

Seated Upper Back Stretch

photo of Seated Upper Back Stretch

  • Seated in your car, let your upper body fall forward and reach your hands to the dashboard.
  • Relax your upper back and let your body round forward.
  • Take a breath in, and on the exhale walk your fingertips forward toward the windshield.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Tip: Let your body relax into this position and use your breath to gain more motion as you stretch.

Chest Stretch

photo of chest stretch

  • Stand tall next to your car and position one arm at chest or waist level outside of the car window.
  • While keeping your shoulder down and back, start the stretch by slowly turning your body away from the car until you feel a stretch in your chest.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch

photo of hamstring stretch

  • While standing tall next to your car, lift one leg and place your heel on the doorway of the car.
  • Keep your back flat and slowly lean forward at the hip until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Remember to keep your core slightly engaged and do not let your lower back round.

Standing Calf Stretch

photo of standing calf stretch

  • Stand facing your car with one foot in front of the other and let your front knee bend.
  • Keep your toes facing forward and place your arms on the car so they are comfortably supporting you.
  • Keep your back leg straight and drive the heel of your back leg down toward the ground until you feel a stretch in the calf.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Do not hyperextend the knee when your leg is straight.

Inner Thigh Stretch

photo of inner thigh stretch

  • Stand facing your car with your feet placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward.
  • Place your hands on the car so they are comfortably supporting you.
  • While keeping your core slightly engaged, sit back into your hips and shift your weight toward the left side until you feel a stretch on your inner thigh.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Keep your toes, knees and hips all in line and facing your car.

Standing Lat Stretch

photo of Standing Lat Stretch

  • Stand next to your car, widen your legs and place your hands on the door to help support you.
  • With a slight bend in your knees and keeping your hips high, shift your weight back into your hips.
  • Press the palms of your hands into the car window for extra stability, so you are able to feel the stretch in your back and sides of your body.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Tip: Keep your arms straight throughout this stretch.

Quad Stretch

photo of quad stretch

  • Stand next to your car with the door open and face away from the doorway.
  • Position your front foot far enough away so that your front knee stays behind your toes.
  • With your other leg, place the top of your foot on the edge of the car door.
  • Tuck your tailbone and squeeze your butt on the back leg to begin the stretch. You should feel this stretch in the front of your thigh.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Avoid letting your back arch. Keep your tailbone tucked under and your core tight to get the most out of this stretch.

We are here to help. If you need more information or are looking for services with our exercise physiologists, please contact HSS Performance and Wellness at sportsperformance@hss.edu.

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