Traveling with sciatica, lower back pain, “Did someone say car trip?”

      Now that I’m feeling a bit better and can sit for longer periods, we have finally planned our long-awaited trip.  A few weeks away from home and for us… this means a long car trip.

       Mind you, this is a really big deal. It’s been over two years since we have taken a trip anywhere. My very supportive family has patiently waited for me to recover and get to a point that I would tolerate sitting for a while.

My car trip set up for sciatica


South Georgia USA campsite
Campsite at Killebrew Park, Warwick, GA

We recently upgraded to a minivan from a cramped little Prius so the comfort level has increased dramatically. I do still use my little set up with the cutout seat cushion, back cushion and my “new to me” handmade lumbar pillow that I made from an old couch throw pillow. It seems to work great if I put the lumbar pillow in the right place.

       Just as a backup, I will be packing my ibuprofen and the muscle relaxer I mentioned in my previous article. Some pain cooling patches will also make it into my “traveling with sciatica” kit.

       I will also make sure everything is within arms reach. My glasses, my phone, chargers, coffee, etc. I try to have everything within reach as to not overuse my back by bending over or even slightly overstretching to reach something. If something falls out of my reach, in my opinion, it is not worth getting it at that point I patiently wait until we stop the car somewhere, then I get what I needed by getting out of the car. Because really…do I want to go back to where I was? No way.

       I seem to have gotten better when I take care of my back in this way. By that I mean, I don’t overdo it, I don’t bend over without keeping my back straight. If I need to overreach for something, it’s just not worth it to me because I know that later on, I will pay the price as I’m still recovering.

       I have come to realize that this is my new world, I must take care of my back or I just won’t be able to move later on. I have come to terms with my back.  I’ll always be sensitive like some are sensitive with certain allergies they are careful not to expose themselves to what they are allergic too because they know it just won’t feel so great later on. The same goes with us “sensitive back” people.

      Sitting up straight and leaning back over the lumbar roll pillow works best for me. If I feel any twinge at all down my leg or buttock I know to adjust and sit up straight and deepen the lumbar curve.

Tent Camping with Sciatica

       When we were planning our trip we decided to make it a longer trip by saving money and camping for a few days here and there. I came up with this idea myself but with some hesitation, but I thought my poor family has been trapped in our house for too long and I was willing to tough it out with care, preparation and much thought of course.

       I thought of a few things to make sure I was going to be alright. We were between using a cot or inflatable bed. A sleeping bag was out of the question. I still could not lay on a flat surface for too long let alone sleeping all night in a bag.

Chow time at a south eastern Georgia campsite
Munching at our campsite at Killebrew Park, in Warwick, GA

I decided on an inflatable bed. There would be no electric on this particular campground site, but we prepared ahead and got a 12v car lighter pump.

       Here’s what’s great about an inflatable bed, it’s adjustable, plain and simple. We even got the cheapest one at Walmart for $7.98.

       Pump the inflatable bed all the way up and it’s tight and firm if you need it that way. But if you let a little air out then you have a softer surface which is what I needed. Sometimes I would let a little more air out and I’d lay on it to see how I felt and then I would let a little bit more air out until I got the perfect sleeping surface for my particular needs.

       Now, because I needed the bed to be a specific way I decided on a twin bed so I can adjust it to my own needs. My husband tends to like a more firm bed and I need a softer more adjustable bed for now.

       All in all, it went surprisingly well even after a long seven-hour trip setting up camp, setting up the tent-making dinner and sleeping in the heat of South Georgia. I woke up just fine the next day with no issues.  Honestly, I was worried about the 14 more days I had to go on this trip but I put that in the back of my mind to try to enjoy myself.

Staying in an Airbnb with sciatica, The knitted blanket.

      There are Airbnb’s from two sides of the spectrum some are super comfortable some are super uncomfortable. Of course, I was scared of the latter but on I went on our trip.

       When we got there I had to test the bed out of course and I knew there was gonna be a problem because it was very very firm. My husband was happy.

       But that night I took out my trusty knitted blanket. Why the knitted blanket? A knitted blanket can adjust to any shape. When I went to sleep that night I took the blanket and tucked here and there, wherever I needed comfort. It worked perfectly, I was so happy because I knew for the rest of my trip I could use the knitted blanket to help me sleep comfortably wherever I was.

Van dweller and camper with sciatica

       What is up with the hype with the van camping and living? I don’t know, but “Why don’t we try it?”, we all said.

Clingman's dome
Clingman’s Dome Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, NC

       After staying at our Airbnb for three days we decided to van camp. This was probably the most uncomfortable night of our trip. Only because I slept in the back bench seat and with the seatbelt into my back it just wasn’t a good situation. The good thing is that I woke up OK but I knew I had to adjust things if this was going to be something we all wanted to do again at some point down the line on our trip later on.

Stay in a hotel room with sciatica

       Just like Airbnb’s hotel rooms can either be very comfortable or very uncomfortable so again I was a little nervous but off we went.

       Once again my knitted blanket came into play I did the same thing I did at the Airbnb although this bed wasn’t as bad.

Going to an amusement park with sciatica

Walkway in Dollywood, Seveirville, TN

       I am a roller coaster rider I love roller coasters I’ve always love them but wish I had a girl I was very picky about which one I would get on.

       I would ask the attendant if there were too many curves are too many drops and I will make my decision and throughout the entire time we were there that’s what I would do I was seeking the attendant and I would ask ask ask.

Dollywood BlackBear Bench
Resting on a Black Bear bench at Dollywood

       I was very content to just wait for my family as they finish their ride while I was sitting and patting myself on the back because I held out for something I like to do to protect myself.

       We did do a lot of walking but I also sat many times as to not overdo it.

       With this plan, I was able to walk the whole park and get on some “safe” rides. All in all, it went quite well and I was happy at the end of the day.

Hiking in the mountains with sciatica

Grundy Forest State Natural_Area Fiery Gizzard Trail Sign
Grundy Forest sign at South Cumberland State Park
Fiery Gizzard Trail Waterfall Pool
Waterfall Pool of the Fiery Gizzard Trail

How I survived a car trip, camping, hotel, Airbnb, hiking and theme park with sciatica

       Only once did I have to use ibuprofen, I never had to use the muscle relaxers or heat pads.

Overall it went very well but I was extremely cautious as I said in the beginning of the article not to overstretch not to bend down quickly. I thought carefully before I made any move at all.

Throughout the trip I always found time to do the stretches that got me better in the first place just as back maintenance if you will.

The trip went very well and I don’t think I would change a thing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts