Whether you’re planning a family holiday, commuting to work or just popping to the shop, for most, driving is a primary means of transportation, but many suffer from back pain behind the wheel. Chiropractors and other back specialists agree that in our eagerness to rush off, we don’t spend the time necessary to set the driving position properly.
Some recline the seat back like a lounger on the beach; one hand might casually slip off the wheel and, it doesn’t matter who’s driving, those mirrors are fixed with glue.
So why is sitting in a car seat so different from sitting in a chair and how does it affect your back health?
If the car is stationary, there isn’t much difference. It’s just as though you were sitting in your living room in a padded chair. However, the forces acting on your body change as the car moves. Pushing down on the pedals, picking up speed or slowing down, all these motions create an extra impact on your body.
So what can be done to prevent back pain while driving?
Holidays are for relaxing. Your goal might be to return looking refreshed, bronzed and glowing. BUT if you drove continuously more than 3 hours the previous day, you’re probably feeling like you need to go straight back on holiday. You need to plan ahead! Ask a loved one to massage your back and release some of the tension. If this fails, treat yourself to a deep tissue massage!
Research suggests that early therapy could reduce your chances of developing chronic pain and receiving medication by 89%, so prioritise your back-health and visit your local chiropractor for a check-up.
If you’re heading on a long journey, or you’re soon setting-off to work, take a few minutes to follow our tips and set-up your car-seat in a back-friendly way.
1. Seat angle
It’s easy to adjust the seat to an angle that seems comfortable, but is it sustainable and good for your back? Some enjoy a relaxed seat while others sit-upright as though they were a guest at the queen’s dinner party. Ideally, you want to recline back to an angle of about 100-110 degrees. Now, don’t worry too much about the geometry, we don’t expect you to pull out a massive protractor. The idea is that you adjust the seat so that your body is not perpendicular to your knees, but slightly reclined. This supports your upper body while maintaining an upright and attentive posture.
2. Leg room
Yes you do want to be sure to reach the pedals! You won’t be going far if not. Bringing your seat as close as possible to the pedals within your comfort zone will prevent you from slouching. Do make sure your knees rest slightly beneath the level of your hips.
3. Push those buttocks back
This is a common mistake. People often slide down the seat and before you know it the tip of your spine, the sacrum, is curved-in and the lumbars are taking all the impact. It’s a big recipe for back problems, especially on long drives.
Make sure your buttocks are in contact with the backrest. You might also find a lumbar support helpful. This can be as simple as a rolled towel or cushion placed in the small of your back.
Remember! Take anything out of your back pocket before sitting-down, especially phones, wallets, and keys. If you don’t, you could develop a major spinal misalignment and trigger conditions such as sciatica.
4. Rest and stretch
Whether you’re heading-off on a road-trip adventure or getting to and from work, stretching is essential. After a long drive your muscles may fix in a certain position. They can become stiff and trigger backaches, BUT this can be avoided by stretching your muscles.
If you’re cruising down the motorway, racing towards warmer weather and sandy beaches, schedule in the rest-stops and go no longer than two hours at a stretch. This way you can enjoy your holiday fully instead of spending your time scouting-out the closest pharmacy.
Sitting for long periods of time creates extra pressure on your spine, which usually leads to inflammation and back pain. This can be managed by placing an ice pack in the hollow of your back. The cold temperature should numb the pain and reduce inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory cream could really save you in these types of situations. Our most popular creams contain menthol, an active ingredient used to stimulate muscles and provide an overall cooling sensation.