Do you experience back pain while driving? Cars are designed for the average person. However, we are all different shapes and sizes.
Many of us drive to and from work every day (driving for over half an hour), or our job specifically involves long hours of driving. If so, you may have experienced back pain; and you would not be alone. Approximately 30-60% of drivers report back pain that is caused or made worse by driving. Osteopaths and chiropractors agree that many of us are in too much of a hurry to get on the road rather than taking the time to set the driving position up properly.
- Take time to be comfortable before you start the journey. If not, in time the small irritations can quickly grow to unbearable pain. It only takes a few moments to settle into a comfortable posture, check your mirrors and adjust the seat. If you share your car with others, it is highly likely these adjustments may have been altered by another driver.
- Make sure your mirrors are adjusted so you do not have to move or twist to see them. You should only have to move your eyes to be able to see out of your mirrors. If you adjust your mirrors while sitting up straight, then if you begin to slouch you will lose vision in the mirrors, which will act as a reminder to sit up.
- Adjust the seat, so you are almost sitting straight with only a slight recline. For most people, a 100-degree angle is recommended. If you recline it too far, your head will not be able to comfortably rest against the headrest which can cause tension in the neck and upper back.
- Alter the angle of the seat so that your thighs are fully supported along their whole length. Sitting with your knees higher than your hips may flatten the spine out and rotate the pelvis, causing a poor postural position. If this is the case, you can try a seat wedge to prevent the pelvis from rotating.
- Change the back of the seat, so that it provides support along the whole length of your spine up to your shoulder level. Do not recline the seat too much as this will have an adverse effect on your neck, causing it to bend forward excessively.
- Roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back for additional support, as car seats often do not support the natural curve of your back
- Drive with both hands on the wheel, not only is this safer but it will minimize the likelihood that your spine will be rotated.
- Recognize that back pain while driving can often be caused by the vibration of the car, or the jolting and bouncing of the car as it goes over bumps. To reduce this, use a cushion specially designed for car seats which will act as a shock absorber. Keeping your car in good condition, specifically, its shock absorbers and tires will also give you a smoother, more comfortable drive
- Take a cold pack or heat pack with you, depending on which one is best for your back pain. A cold pack could simply be an ice pack wrapped in a towel, or you could buy an instant ice pack from your pharmacy or health store which can be kept in the car until you need them. Some heat packs can be plugged into the cigarette socket in your car to provide constant heat. Alternatively, if your car has heated seats, use these to keep your muscles warm during the journey.
- Add regular exercise into your lifestyle to strengthen your back muscles and release tension. Cardio exercises like running or swimming are great for overall fitness, and weights are great for improving muscle strength.
- If your car has cruise control, use this when possible. While cruise control is engaged, place your feet on the floor, so your legs form a 90-degree angle and gently push them down into the floor. This will help naturally support your spine
- Do not keep a wallet or phone in your back pocket; this can slightly misalign your spine. It may not seem noticeable or significant at first, but over time it can cause or worsen back pain while driving.
- Stop regularly on long trips every two hours for at least 15 minutes. Move around and stretch. Try some gentle twists, or reach down to touch your toes. To stretch your lower back, bend your knees a little while reaching for the ground, and aim to touch your knees with your chest. To relieve neck and shoulder pain, try shrugging and rolling your shoulders and rolling your neck from side to side.
If you found tips that will decrease back pain in your life, share this article with others or leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.
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