Winter is behind us and some of us start to think about driving to see friends and family more often. For others, daily driving is just a way of life due to your job. Whatever reason, if you are going to be spending time in the car, look at our top tips to help keep your back in shape. By making these small changes you can avoid neck pain that can lead to headaches and avoid low back pain.
If you share a car, it is worth spending a few moments to make sure the seat position is adjusted to suit you each time you get in.
The back of the seat should be set slightly backwards, so that it feels natural and your elbows should be at a comfortable and relaxed angle for driving.
Once you have adjusted your seat correctly, your hands should fall naturally on the steering wheel, with just a slight bend in the arms.
If the wheel is too high and far away, tension will build up in your shoulders and upper back. If it is too low and close to you, the wheel may be touching your legs, which will reduce your ability to turn it freely, putting strain on the wrists and the muscles of the upper back.
Your reactions must be quick, so you should not need to move your head a lot. The mirror positions should allow you to see all around the car with the movement of your eyes with minimal head movement.
Set your mirror positions to suit you before you drive off.
Your seatbelt should always lie across the top of your shoulder and never rub against your neck or fall onto the top of your arm.
You might need to change the position at which the seat belt emerges from the body of the car. This may mean buying clips that help to adjust the seat belt height.
Once you have adjusted your seat correctly, your feet should fall naturally onto the pedals. You should be able to press the pedals to the floor by mainly moving your ankle and only using your leg a little.
Driving in high heels or wedges or just thick soled shoes means that you have to stretch your feet too much in order to push on the pedals. This is likely to lead to tension in your calf muscles and increase the chance of developing cramp and will also potentially strain the low back if you stretch one leg on the accelerator for hours on motorway journeys.
You should drive with your head rested against the headrest – not held tense 2cm in front of it! If you have an accident then the headrest is there to absorb some of the impact and reduce the whiplash effect.
Relax and Exercise
A relaxed driving position reduces stress on the spine, allowing your seat to take your weight.
Take regular breaks – stop and stretch your legs (and arms!) at least every two hours, more often if possible. You should certainly stop more frequently if you are feeling any discomfort.
If you are stuck in traffic, exercise in your seat.
Try buttock clenches, side bends, seat braces (pushing your hands into the steering wheel and your back into the seat – tensing and relaxing) as well as shoulder shrugs and circles.
Wear comfortable clothes for a long journey – tight jeans can cause joints to stiffen up if you sit in one position for ages.
If you are often uncomfortable when you are driving it could be because the pedals are offset and you have to twist slightly – what suits one driver does not suit another, depending on your existing problems. If you regularly get back pain when you drive and using the above advice does not help, call in to chat to us and see if treatment can help.