Driving with back pain can make trips a nightmare. Here are some driving tips to save your back when on the move. There is nothing like the freedom of hitting the open road. Family, friends, or solo, the destination along with new sights breezing by, refreshes the mind. With the COVID pandemic, many have turned to trucks, cars, SUVs, and RVs for a comfortable, safe mode of transportation.
Back pain from driving can become a serious issue. Studies have shown how low back pain, and spending a significant amount of time driving are interconnected. And other studies have also shown living a sedentary lifestyle like sitting for a long time will lead to some form of back pain that can become exacerbated by elongated driving. Road trips and regular commuting can both impact an individual’s spine. It depends on the length of time drivers are behind the wheel as well as any present spinal conditions.
Long commutes and road trips can take a toll on the body that can continue to increase in its severity. Individuals live most of their lives in a flexed/flexing posture. Meaning that there is the ability to shift positions and move around. This could be like Sleeping curled up, then on the back, sitting at a desk/workstation, then standing, stretching out, twisting, and bending.
Driving creates a whole different type of spinal stress because of the physical mechanics involved. Automobiles generate different types of forces on the back. Factors such as accelerating, decelerating, swaying side to side, and vibrations all can contribute to back pain. To elaborate the feet and legs control the vehicle, and so are not able to help stabilize the spine, and vibration from uneven/loose gravel roads can cause issues with the spinal discs.
Discomfort and pain can occur for the driver and passenger/s. Individuals with diagnosed back condition/s can experience a worsening of symptoms and an increase in pain. This could be a postural imbalance, sciatica, or arthritis. Here are some driving tips to show how to prevent back pain before, during, and after the trip.
Prevention is the best way to decrease back pain when driving. The following precautions are recommended:
- Think about getting helpful sitting aids/lumbar support cushions, like memory foam and air-filled seat cushions.
- If specifically dealing with tailbone pain, a support with a tailbone cutout is recommended.
- Optimize the seat by placing the back a little beyond fully upright. From 100 to 105-110 degrees, so the individual maintains proper posture. Inclining more can lead to a forward-head posture that can cause neck pain.
- Driving ergonomics need to be incorporated.
- The seat should be close enough to the steering wheel to provide a relaxed upper body posture. However, make sure that the legs are not to close to the steering wheel and there is room to maneuver. The seat should be level around 5 degrees upward to provide support to the legs.
- If unable to provide lumbar support rolling up a towel/thick sweater etc can be placed in the small of the back providing a quick fix.
Eyes on the road and hands at 10 and 2 but don’t take the focus off the spine.
- If driving for more than 20 minutes, it is recommended to make adjustments/changes in the seated position. Just a slight tweak can reduce the driving forces on the spine.
- Driving for longer than an hour then short breaks are necessary. Pit stops are spine savers. Just like work breaks that involve standing, walking around, and stretching out, bending forward and leaning backward will keep the spine flexible, uncompressed with optimal blood flow.
- Heated seats can help soothe tight back muscles. It acts as a heating pad.
- Remove items from pockets, especially wallets or similar objects in the back pocket. This can lead to an asymmetrical position that leads to shifting weight/stress loads to one side creating an added strain on the spine and awkward postures.
After driving for an extended period, resting is vital to spine health. Utilize time out of the vehicle to continue prevention.
- Sitting right after driving is not recommended.
- Right after driving the body needs to move after being in the static driving/passenger position for some time.
- Standing, walking, and doing some gentle stretches are recommended. Back extensions and side bending are examples.
- Core exercises can help and should also be incorporated into a regular physical exercise regimen.
- However, exercises after long or strenuous drives when the body is fatigued are not recommended, as intense exercise can lead to injury or worsening of back pain.
Pain Continues After
If there was a small/low amount of pain or if it was a pain-free experience then perhaps the driving tips helped. If the pain continues and there was no help with these driving tips, it might be time to see a doctor or chiropractor. Minor aches and pains can be expected, but if there is pain lasting longer than a few days or limits function, then seeking out medical advice is recommended.
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