Afflicted with Joyrider’s Back

The first decade of the twentieth century saw growing use and acceptance of the automobile among the traveling public. The new machine rapidly replaced carriages, streetcars, and bicycles as the preferred mode of transportation. However, there were some unfavorable results. The Omaha Daily News of July 25, 1909, reported the emergence of a new affliction: “Joy-Rider’s Back—the latest summer disease.”

According to the News:

Doctors who are busy treating summer visitors and stay-at-homes for lame back and spinal pains don’t call it that, but the name fits the complaint all right. Instead of hang-over headache, the joy-rider now has a backache. . . .  You see, when a fellow goes on a joy ride, he wants to go fast. If there’s a hump in the road, instead of going over it gently, as would be the case with the owner of a car who is used to riding, the machine jumps in the air a foot or so and the joy-rider is wrenched from his seat and tumbles around until the motor car steadies itself again.  The same is true of turning corners. The careful driver slows down at each corner and turns it gently. The joy-rider, on the other hand, constantly is urging the chauffeur to ‘hit ‘er up’ more and the chauffeur lets his car skid around corners. The passenger on a joy ride is yanked this way and that and all the muscles of his back are strained trying to hold his seat. 

Doctors recommended that sufferers from joyrider’s back abstain from joyriding, sleep nine hours nightly, and massage the back or other “afflicted parts” with an emollient lotion twice daily. Women seemed to suffer less than men, due to (according to doctors in 1909) “the protection afforded by the long style of corsets now in use.”

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