New Year, New Drive: Focusing on Ergonomics to Prevent Neck and Back Pain While Driving

Taking Charge of Your Spine’s Well-being While Driving

Whenever you hit the road, your spine works hard to handle every twist, turn, brake, and speed-up. But do we ever consider how our posture and spine health are affected while driving?

Join us as we navigate the world of driving ergonomics, figuring out ways to avoid neck and back pain while still having a comfortable and enjoyable ride.

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If you have persistent back pain, driving might make it feel worse. Driving for long periods, in particular, can increase the risk of back pain.

Sitting in a car can be more strenuous on your body compared to sitting on a comfortable couch. This is because you stay in the same position for a long time, making your muscles stiff. Additionally, focusing intensely on the road and traffic can create muscle tension. Unlike at home, where pillows and cushions provide support, the car often lacks proper lumbar support.

The good news is that there are simple changes you can make while driving and tools you can use to help reduce back pain and make your driving experience more comfortable.

Why does my back ache when I’m in the car?

When you spend a lot of time driving, your back might feel uncomfortable or even painful. How you sit in the car can stress your back muscles and spine. If you sit with bad posture or slouch while driving, it can make your pain worse.

Driving can also make you feel mentally tired and stressed, which adds tension to your shoulders, neck, and back, making the pain worse.

Whether you’re a truck driver, someone who loves weekend road trips, or just commuting to work daily, follow these tips to ensure you don’t get back pain after driving.

1. Try using a cushion that provides support for your back while sitting.

Lumbar support cushions or pillows can be a great help if you have back pain while driving.

These cushions give extra support to your lower back or lumbar region. This is important because conditions like osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis can make your lower back feel painful and stiff, especially for older adults when driving.

The cushions fit in the space between your lower back and the car seat, helping you maintain good driving posture. Besides reducing lower back pain, they might also help with pain that goes down your legs.

If you don’t have a lumbar support cushion on a drive, you can use a rolled-up towel and place it against your lower back.

2. Adjust your seat to a comfortable position.

Adjusting your car seat correctly can significantly improve your driving comfort and health. Here are some simple tips:

  • Experiment with moving your seat forward, backward, up, and down to find the most comfortable position.
  • Keep your spine straight and aligned by adjusting the tilt of the back and bottom of the seat.
  • Distribute your weight evenly on both sides of your body, with your thighs against the seat and knees slightly below your hips.
  • Avoid sitting too far back or having your seat too high to prevent overextending your arms or slumping, which can lead to neck pain.
  • Consider the size of your car, as compact cars may not provide enough headroom for tall individuals, making it challenging to sit comfortably on long trips.

Remember, finding the proper seat position can enhance your driving experience and prevent discomfort.

3. Adjust your steering wheel.

Making small changes to your steering wheel position can relieve your neck and back stress.

Pull it closer to you instead of reaching out for the steering wheel. This simple adjustment can ease tension in your neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles.

Consider holding the steering wheel at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. during long drives rather than 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Many people find this more comfortable, mainly if they can rest their arms on the armrests while driving.

Additionally, don’t forget to adjust your rear and side-view mirrors properly to reduce strain on your neck.

4. Experience the comfort of a warm seat cushion.

Heat helps ease pain by relaxing tight blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow to your back. Using heated car seats can help loosen tight muscles, alleviate muscle spasms, and ease stiff joints.

Specific heated car seats come with a massage feature, adding an extra layer of comfort and helping to reduce back pain.

If your car doesn’t come with heated seats, you can purchase a heated car seat cover to install manually for a similar soothing effect.

5. Choose shoes that feel good on your feet.

Wearing specific shoes, such as flip-flops and high heels, might make it harder for you to drive safely and cause more pain in your lower back. Shoes that don’t fit well or have high heels can affect how you sit in the car, making your usual seat adjustments less effective than when you wear flatter, well-fitted shoes.

The best shoes for driving are sneakers or other shoes with good grip. Cushioned shoes, like running sneakers, can also help reduce the impact of pressing on the car pedals.

6. Make sure to have a soothing ointment for pain relief in your car

Simple pain relief creams can help ease your back pain while driving. These over-the-counter (OTC) creams come in various types, like ones that make your skin feel numb, warm, or cool. You can easily keep a roll-on cream in your car for quick relief whenever your back hurts.

Some of these creams have natural ingredients like cannabidiol (CBD), capsaicin, and arnica, which might help with swelling, muscle pain, and stiffness. Certain CBD creams even have menthol for a cooling effect, while others may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Navigating the Intersection of Driving and Spinal Health in Chiropractic Care

Maintaining spinal health is crucial for everyone, but it becomes essential for individuals who spend a significant amount of time driving. Long hours behind the wheel can contribute to poor posture, discomfort, and spinal issues. Chiropractic care can play a vital role in addressing and preventing these issues. Here are some considerations and tips for navigating the intersection of driving and spinal health through chiropractic care:

Ergonomics of Driving:

  • Proper Seat Adjustment: Ensure that your car seat is adjusted correctly. The backrest should support the natural curve of your spine.
  • Steering Wheel Position: Adjust the steering wheel to a comfortable position that allows your arms to be slightly bent. Avoid overreaching or hunching forward.

Posture Awareness:

  • Maintain Good Posture: Focus on sitting with your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and your head aligned with your spine.
  • Take Breaks: If you have a long drive, take breaks every hour to stretch and walk around. This helps to prevent stiffness and muscle fatigue.

Chiropractic Evaluation:

  • Preventive Care: Consider regular chiropractic check-ups, especially if you have a history of spinal issues or discomfort. Preventive care can address minor issues before they become significant problems.
  • Professional Advice: Consult a chiropractor to assess your spinal health and receive personalized recommendations.

Exercises and Stretches:

  • Neck and Shoulder Exercises: Perform exercises to strengthen and stretch the neck and shoulder muscles, commonly affected during long drives.
  • Core Strengthening: Strengthening your core muscles can better support your spine.

Ergonomic Accessories:

  • Lumbar Support: Consider using a lumbar support cushion to maintain the natural curve of your lower back.
  • Seat Cushions: Choose seat cushions that provide comfort and reduce pressure on the spine.

Hydration and Nutrition:

  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for spinal health. Drink plenty of water to keep your intervertebral discs hydrated.
  • Balanced Diet: Maintain a balanced diet rich in nutrients that support bone and muscle health.

Mindful Driving Practices:

  • Mind-Body Connection: Be mindful of your body while driving. Avoid tensing your muscles and practice relaxation techniques.
  • Mindful Breathing: Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce tension and promote relaxation.

Educational Resources:

  • Chiropractic Workshops: Attend workshops or educational sessions offered by chiropractors to learn more about maintaining spinal health during daily activities, including driving.

Adaptive Strategies:

  • Adaptive Devices: For individuals with specific spinal conditions, consider adaptive devices that can make driving more comfortable.


Takeaway

Remember, individual needs may vary, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or chiropractor for personalized advice based on your specific situation. Regular chiropractic care and healthy lifestyle habits can contribute to overall spinal well-being, even in the context of extended periods of driving.


Disclaimer:

Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this article or others.

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