Summer road trips are a great way to spend time with the kids and renew your knowledge of and love for this great country of ours, but if you’re developing a sore neck or jaw pain on your road trip, it can make it hard to enjoy. Here are some tips to help you overcome this discomfort so you can enjoy your vacations.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping properly allows your body to heal and prepare for the day ahead. If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, it can set you up for a bad day in the car. You can also experience discomfort if you are sleeping awkwardly or in an uncomfortable position.

Hotel beds can be uncomfortable, so try to pick a chain that has comfortable beds, and, if necessary, pack your own pillow.

Stretch before Getting in the Car

Driving can be a workout, and if you’re not stretching before you get in the car, you can set yourself up for sore muscles. Stretch your back, neck, jaw, and arms.

Make Sure Your Seat Supports You

If your car seat isn’t properly designed or adjusted, it makes your body work harder to support itself. This can lead to increased soreness. Adjust your headrest to support you, put the seat in a proper position, and, if necessary, get a cushion to help support your lumbar region.

Take Frequent Breaks

Remember what we said about driving being exercise? When exercising, you have to take regular breaks. With driving, you should take a break at least every two hours. At a minimum, you should get out, walk around, and stretch. It’s better if you actually spend some time in a diverting activity, and what’s a road trip without a few roadside attractions?


Stress is a major contributor to neck and jaw pain when driving. If you get caught in some bad driving conditions, are trying to meet a tight deadline, or are dealing with rowdy kids in the backseat, your stress level can elevate. This is another good reason to take a break, and also keep a proper perspective: remember that this is a vacation.

Treat Pain as It Starts

Pain can get worse if you don’t treat it right away. Take some ice from the cooler to make an ice pack on the road. Take some ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help cut off muscle soreness right away. Remember, though, don’t use an ice pack for more than 15 minutes at a stretch, and never exceed recommended dosage.

Talk to a TMJ Dentist

If neck or jaw pain is a chronic problem, or if it seems to be getting worse, you may have TMJ. Consulting with a dentist can help you learn about the best TMJ treatment options to prevent you from developing neck and jaw pain so you’re more comfortable in many activities, not just driving.

For an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist, please call Smile Columbia Dentistry at (803) 781-9090.