Work situations and our way of living has caused us to spend more and more time in our cars, yet little of us you know how much pressure this places on your nervous system and muscular tissue. This repeat behaviour results in changes to motor patterns and the development of muscular pain and stiffness, therefore maintaining good posture is key to avoiding back pain when driving.
Before each drive you should adjust your seat, mirrors and steering wheel to ensure you are seated in the most comfortable position and have no need to strain. Regularly check your posture whilst driving. Are your shoulders back? Are your feet in the same position? Are you slouching? You will be able to tell simply by whether you still have the same field of view in your mirrors.
Whether the aches and pains are muscular or spinal, it is important that you stop driving regularly and either go for a short walk (preferable) or do some gentle stretching of the legs and back.
If you feel foggy, lose concentration or suffer from headaches after driving for a length of time then try to push your head back into the head rest of your seat as this will take some pressure off the spinal cord and may reduce your symptoms somewhat.
A recent journal article written by Emily Fox of the British Medical Journal, highlights nine common factors that can affect your posture if seated for a long period of time, leading to pain and discomfort. Follow these tips next time you get behind the wheel:
- Raise the seat if possible to offer the best view of the road. If you cannot raise the seat, raise yourself in the seat by using a cushion or special seating device that raises you a bit higher.
- Move the seat forward until you can easily depress the clutch and accelerator fully.
- Can you adjust the angle of the seat so that you 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.
- Adjust 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.
- Adjust the lumbar support of the back rest so that it is in the small of your back and that it fits correctly, i.e. not overarching your back or leaving any gaps.
- Adjust the steering wheel height so that there is enough clearing above your thighs and that you can comfortable see the display panel in front of you.
- Check to see that you are not too far or too close to the wheel. A rough guide is to be able to rest your wrists on top of the steering wheel without stretching.
- Adjust your mirrors to suit you, rather than twisting and turning your back or neck.
- Try to drive with both hands on the wheel, not only is this safer but it will minimise the likelihood that your spine will be rotated.
Do you suffer from back pain as a result of spending lengthy periods of time in your car? Myotherapy can not only help fix back pain whilst sitting in the car but also help prevent the onset of pain. This can be done through the recognition and correction of; muscle, fascial, joint imbalance whether it be functional or structural. Once identified a plan will be put in place to help improve your movement patterns and levels of pain. This can be achieved through the use of Dry Needling, Manual Therapy, Myofascial stretching and relevant exercise prescription.