Car on a road trip with bubbles on the side depicting restless leg remedies like pillows, music, walking, and snacks!

Road Trip Woes: How to Have the Most Comfortable Drive

I haven’t had a holiday in a long time because of the pandemic, job loss, and health issues. So my spouse and I decided to go on a short 2-day holiday to a national park in the mountains about 5-and-a-half hours from where we live — not far at all, and we had never been to this particular national park. We wanted to travel locally, but also somewhere we had yet to explore.

Road trips with RLS and chronic pain

We went to Waterton National Park in southern Alberta. Mountains, scenic roads, excellent redcurrants, and a bout tour... I mean, I could have stayed months. Absolutely gorgeous there. I recommend it as a place to check out.

I don’t necessarily recommend a road trip with restless legs syndrome. However, I do recommend getting to the destination, so you sort of have to get there one way or the other. I never want to be stuck in one position for a long duration; with RLS, that is never going to be pleasant.

Since I can’t drive at the moment, I was the passenger the whole way, and that does mean you are stuck sitting there with little space to move around. I also have chronic pain, and I am very aware that long trips are just a painful venture.

Preparing the most comfortable ride

I get daytime RLS symptoms as is, and getting stuck in one position for a long time definitely aggravated it. I got pretty antsy fast. I knew it could happen, so I ensured my level of comfort was going to be high so my stress levels were minimal.

Yet, I rather like road trips, because I really, really prepare for them. Here's how:

  1. I rock the tunes. I prepare an awesome Spotify playlist, and then also a secondary playlist for my spouse that is not awesome — but, well, we must make compromises.
  2. Super comfortable clothes. No one wants to be uncomfortable in the car for hours.
  3. Snacks. Lots of yum-yums.
  4. Comfortable shoes are a must; and then, when I am settled in the car, I pretty much ditch them.
  5. Car Pillow. (Yes, that is capitalized, because Car Pillow is the name of the actual pillow I use for the car.) It helps with my extreme nap attacks lately, and also works for long trips and when it is hot and I get all sleepy... and boom, nap.
  6. Adjust the seat for the maximum level of comfort. That can be far back if I am tired or not.

Taking walk breaks and stretch breaks

Being comfortable is important when managing pain, but also when getting antsy with RLS. Specifically for RLS, though, I really have to add some pointers here.

Stretching when we make a stop

I must have walk-about breaks to stretch my legs. This is a must for chronic pain as well. Actually, generally, I have to go to the bathroom anyway because I am one of those people who is constantly thirsty. So we have to stop anyway. Might as well stretch the legs.

When we do stop, I mean I literally stretch my legs. I do some calf stretches. I stand on the tips of my toes, then roll back on my heels. I kick my feet back to kick my own butt.

Stretches I do in the car

I also do stretches in the car. I roll my ankles around, arch my feet, and pull my toes back. I rub the arches of my feet. I push my legs all the way forward and point my toes (with the seat all the way back). Similarly, I will then have the legs out and pull my feet straight up and arch my toes back.

While in the car, I change positions as much as possible. I am hypermobile, so I can switch that up quite a bit, which does help when the RLS starts to kick in.

Taking movement breaks helps

That is the best I can do in the situation — just get as comfortable as possible and take as many movement breaks as possible. The stretches do ease things for me.

Really, it was a pretty good road trip. The RLS symptoms were manageable overall. It isn’t enjoyable having to deal with that in a cramped space, but you do the best you can. I did have to take one of my RLS medications on the way home, but that was about it.

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