Reduce Spinal Stress While Driving And Avoid Back Pain
One of the most common forms of transport today is the motor car. Many of us spend at least some time every single day sitting in a car, whether it be getting to work, dropping the kids at school, visiting friends and family, or just a quick run to the shops.
Unfortunately, this can put a lot of stress and strain on your spine, especially when if you are sitting for hours at a time on the commute to work, or if you need to get in and out of the vehicle frequently. Long periods of sitting is well known to be a major cause of back pain, and getting in and out of some car seats can require seriously advanced gymnastic skills!
Here are some travel tips that will help reduce the spinal stress while driving:
- Make sure your seat is in the best possible ergonomic position to reduce the pressure on your lower back discs. Your seat should be positioned so it is upright or very slightly angled back (10 degrees from perfectly upright). This will help you sit up straight and to reduce forward head posture. The back of the seat bottom should be slightly higher than the front.
- Make sure that you aren’t sitting to close or too far from the steering wheel.
- Make sure your lumbar support is correct for your spine. If you have an older car with no lumbar sacral support/adaptation, add a small rolled towel or pillow to support your lower back. Back braces can be very helpful.
- Make sure the headrest is correctly positioned – the back of your head should touch midway up the head rest to prevent whiplash in the event of an accident. Avoid leaning forward with your head and neck.
- If your car has a cruise control function, use it on long journeys so your leg on the accelerator/gas pedal isn’t held in the same position for prolonged periods of time.
- Using arm rests on both sides has been shown to reduce disc pressure. However, avoid leaning or twisting to one side when using the arm rests.
- Keep relaxed! Avoid tensing your arms and shoulders or gripping the steering wheel tightly.
- Avoid sitting on your wallet if it is in your back pocket, as this can cause your pelvis to twist, which can affect the rest of your spine.
- On a long trip get out of the car, ideally stopping for 5 minutes every hour. At the very least get out of the car every 2 hours and walk around to avoid fatigue, muscle cramping and to get the load off your spine. Use fuel and bathroom stops to walk around and to do some simple back exercises.
- If you suffer from severe low back pain, always get in and out of the car gently, “backing in” first to sit down, then rotating your legs into the car together.
- When getting heavy luggage in and out of the boot, make sure that you get assistance. It is very difficult to avoid putting undue stress on your back, due to the awkward lifting positions involved.
- Never jump out of a van or truck cab, as the jarring forces can greatly increase your chances of injuring your back.
Some studies have also shown that there is improvement in muscle blood flow and oxygenation when using seat massage systems. This would be of great benefit to those that have back problems and do spend longer periods of time driving.
For most of us, car travel is only going to be a minor cause of spinal stress. However, when you understand the importance of spinal health, and how it directly affects our general health and well being, you will know that we need to do all we can to look after our spines.
Most of our car trips are only short journeys. Even so, being mindful of these simple rules will help reduce the spinal stress while driving, minimising your risk of developing back pain and other spinal problems.
If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.
Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.
Sitting biomechanics, part II: optimal car driver's seat and optimal driver's spinal model. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2000;23:37–47 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10658875
A seat-bottom posterior inclination of 5 degrees: Sitting biomechanics part I: review of the literature. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Nov-Dec;22(9):594-609. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10626703
Active lumbar system (ALS) International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. Volume 15, Issue 3, 2009. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10803548.2009.11076809 & http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00140130500356882