ATLANTA - Metro Atlanta traffic has been a grit-your-teeth grind for months, as the average 30-minute one- way commute stretched into a much longer ride.
"Some days it's worse than others," says Atlanta bartender Robert Howell, whose commute typically takes him 30 to 45 minutes one-way.
All that time in the car has landed Howell face down on an adjustment table here at The Joint Chiropractic Clinic in East Atlanta, trying to get relief for his back pain.
Chiropractor Dr. Patrick Greco says he's seen a jump in clients complaining of lower back pain.
But Greco says there are some simple ways to protect your back on the road.
"Honestly, one of the best things you can do is be aware," Dr. Greco says. "Be aware of your body. Be aware of your movement. "You want get some mobility, as much as you can, from your neck at the way down throughout your back."
Before you get in the car, Greco recommends taking your wallet out of your back pocket.
If you don't it may throw off the alignment of your spine, he says.
"It's like sitting on an uneven chair," Greco explains. "So, it's basically going to alter your hips, alter your pelvis."
Push your seat as far back from the pedals as possible, and straighten the seat back.
"You don't want to have the seat lean too far back because it will cause you to crane your neck forward," Dr. Greco says. "You want to make sure your ears and your shoulders and your hips are all in a line. That's a neutral position, the most neutral position you can get while you're sitting in your car."
And while you're stuck at that light, stretch.
Greco recommends 4 basic stretches:
The Head Press: Sitting up straight, tuck your chin and press your head into the headrest of your seat for 5 seconds. Do this at each stoplight.
The Shoulder Roll: Lift your shoulders, like you're trying to touch your ears and then roll them forward and back to loosen your upper back.
The Steering Wheel Spine Stretch: Place your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and round your back, stretching the muscles between your shoulder blades and mid-back. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and take a deep breath. Repeat.
The Tension Tackle: When you're stopped at a red light, tilt your right ear down towards your right shoulder. Relax your shoulder and take a deep breath.
Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. At the next light, repeat the stretch on the other side.
When you're heading out for a summer road trip, Dr. Greco says to remember to take breaks.
He recommends stopping every hour or so and getting out of the vehicle to walk around and stretch.
Your back will thank you for it.