Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is a common occurrence for most when it comes to driving for longer periods. It’s a discomfort that many drivers simply grin and bear, trying not to think about the potential health implications further down the line. The good news is that there are simple techniques we can all use to make back pain a less common occurrence while we’re in the driver’s seat.
Why can driving be bad for your back?
Everyone’s bodies are unique, and accordingly, some people experience more back pain while driving than others. However, what we do know is that, as a general rule, our bones, joints and muscles are designed to be moving around the majority of the time. This means that if you stay in one position too long, stiffness and pain in the muscles is likely to occur. Naturally, a prime time for stiffness and pain is while driving. This is because the back is forced to stay fixed in the position of the car seat. On top of this, many drivers can things worse by driving with bad posture, making back pain more likely to occur, and quicker to set in.
What can we do about back pain while driving?
Luckily, for most people there’s lots of things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of back pain while driving. Here’s a selection of our most useful tips:
Before you get on the road
There are a number of techniques you can employ before even switching on your car engine that will make you less likely to develop back pain during your journey.
- Adjust the steering wheel – This will be down to your personal preference. If your steering wheel allows, experiment with the angle and height to work out what position is most comfortable for you.
- Position the mirrors – Taking the time to carefully position your mirrors will reduce the movement of your head necessary to see your rear view. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of straining your neck and shoulders.
- Find the correct posture in the driver’s seat – This is crucial and involves a number of factors. The most important thing to keep in mind is for your back to be straight and aligned with the seat, with your neck and head sitting on top of your spine. It also helps to have your knees slightly higher than your hips. Adjust the seat to best achieve this positioning. You may want to consider using a cushion or back support between your lower back and the car seat, to ensure contact with the seat whilst also allowing for the spine’s natural curvature.
- Remove items from back pockets – Sitting on items in your pockets will affect your posture in the seat, so find somewhere safe to put them during the journey, such as the glove compartment.
- It’s a good idea to occasionally adjust your seat or shift your body slightly. Even 10 seconds of this, every 20 minutes or so, can make a positive difference to your levels of comfort. Another option is to flex your ankles and feet to improve blood circulation through your legs.
- On more long-haul car journeys, it’s advisable to actually stop at regular intervals and take a break to stretch and walk around. It’s best to take a break after every 2 hours of driving, for at least 15 minutes. If you suffer from more severe back pain, it’s appropriate to take longer, more frequent breaks.
When your journey is complete
If back pain persists after your car journey, consider seeking treatment from a doctor or physiotherapist. Should you experience any adverse symptoms, such as inflammation or swelling, constant unceasing pain, pain high up in the back or chest, a high temperature or numbness and tingling, it’s recommended that you contact a health professional as soon as possible.
Harpenden Physiotherapy would be happy to discuss with you any lower back pain or upper back pain issues you may have, whether that’s simply mild discomfort you’ve been noticing while driving, or other more serious concerns. Find out more about our physiotherapy for back pain or contact us today to arrange an appointment.