The body is designed to move. For individuals who spend a significant amount of time driving each day, whether for a living or a long commute, over time can lead to headaches, neck and back pain, sciatica, and increases the risk for serious injury. Chiropractic can retrain individuals to practice healthy driving posture. This is accomplished through decompression and massage therapy combined with recommended stretches/exercises, and an anti-inflammatory diet will bring pain relief and help prevent injury.
Healthy Driving Posture
Two main reasons driving impacts the back are poor posture and being in a fixed position for an extended period. Individuals who regularly drive for more than 4 hours a day are more at risk. An unhealthy driving posture can lead to an increased risk of discomfort/pain in the:
- Over time these issues can become chronic, making the body vulnerable to various injuries.
Back Pain Symptoms
Sometimes back pain needs immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms present:
- Inflammation in the back.
- Swelling on the back.
- Constant pain does not go away or ease up after resting or movement.
- Pain in the upper back that radiates to the chest.
- A high temperature.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
- Numbness or tingling around the buttocks or groin area.
- Slide the tailbone as close to the back of the seat as possible.
- Leave a gap between the back of the knees and the front of the seat.
- If the vehicle doesn’t allow for the proper position, a back support cushion can help.
Raise The Hips
- If possible, adjust the area you sit on, so the thighs are supported along their entire length.
- The knees should be slightly lower than the hips.
- This will increase circulation to the back muscles while opening up the hips.
Sitting Too Close
- An individual should be able to comfortably reach the pedals and depress them through their full range with the entire foot.
- A safety study found that drivers whose chests were closer to the wheel were significantly more likely to suffer head, neck, and chest injuries in front and rear-end collisions.
- Ensure the seat raises the eye level a few inches above the steering wheel to allow sufficient clearance between the head and roof.
- The angle of the back of the seat should go a little beyond 90 degrees to 100-110 degrees places minimal pressure on the back.
- Leaning too far back forces the individual to raise/push their head and neck forward, which can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and tingling in the fingers.
- The top of the headrest should be between the top of the ears and the top of the head.
- It should slightly touch the back of the head when sitting with a healthy driving posture.
- The headrest is vital in reducing whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.
- Ensure the rear-view and side mirrors are correctly adjusted will prevent straining the neck.
- Individuals should be able to see the traffic behind them without having to crane their necks.
Be Sure To Take Breaks
- Even with a healthy driving posture, fatigue can and will set in.
- Listen to your body and take breaks.
- Park in a safe place at a rest stop or designated area to get out of the vehicle, move around, and stretch.
Driving Posture Exercises
The following exercises can help improve driving posture and prevent pain while making deliveries or transporting people.
This exercise helps reduce pressure on the neck and shoulders.
- Bring the shoulder blades back and up with the hands on the steering wheel.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together in the middle of the back.
- Hold for 3 seconds, then release.
- Repeat ten times.
This exercise activates the abdominal and external oblique muscles.
- Press the lower back into the car seat.
- Inhale and tilt the pelvis forward to create an arch in the lower back.
- Hold for 3 seconds, then release.
- Repeat ten times.
Posture is more than just how one carries themselves. The effects of unhealthy posture can carry over into an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Whether it’s caused by injury, stress, work, or sports, a professional chiropractor will help you get back to optimal health.
Cvetkovic, Marko M et al. “Assessing Post-Driving Discomfort and Its Influence on Gait Patterns.” Sensors (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 21,24 8492. 20 Dec. 2021, doi:10.3390/s21248492
Pope, Malcolm H et al. “Spine ergonomics.” Annual review of biomedical engineering vol. 4 (2002): 49-68. doi:10.1146/annurev.bioeng.4.092101.122107
Tinitali, Sarah, et al. “Sitting Posture During Occupational Driving Causes Low Back Pain; Evidence-Based Position or Dogma? A Systematic Review.” Human factors vol. 63,1 (2021): 111-123. doi:10.1177/0018720819871730
van Veen, Sigrid, and Peter Vink. “Posture variation in a car within the restrictions of the driving task.” Work (Reading, Mass.) vol. 54,4 (2016): 887-94. doi:10.3233/WOR-162359
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