Driving me mad!

Whether you are behind the wheel or in the passenger seat, we all spend a large amount of time in either driving or being driven in a car!

Sitting in  the car in the same position for an extended period of time can trigger lower, middle or upper back pain.

If you are a passenger, you may be able to make yourself more comfortable by shifting your position from time to time or even take medications for pain relief. However, if you are driving – you may not have that choice!

When you have back pain, time spent in a car can literally “drive” you mad!

What causes back pain when driving?

When you are sitting in your car and it is stationary it may feel like you are sitting in your comfy armchair, but the minute the car starts moving it’s all change!

When driving the body is exposed to additional forces such as vibrations, lateral sway, acceleration and deceleration.

Driving requires you to use your feet, when your feet are active they can’t be firmly planted on the ground for stability and therefore cannot support the lower body. This along with incorrect seating position and the design of the vehicle’s seat itself, can increase your risk of having back problems.

If back pain while driving becomes frequent and makes it difficult to drive, don’t give up, with some modifications and a little effort, you may be able to prevent back pain whilst driving!

Try out these tips for a pain free driving experience:

Get comfy

  • Take the time to make sure you are comfortable from the moment you set off. The smallest irritant at the beginning of your trip can turn into a raging pain later.
  • Empty out your back pockets, sitting on a wallet, phone or anything else could throw your spine out of alignment.

Adjust the seat and headrest

  • Move the seat forwards and backwards to set the distance between the seat and the pedals. Your knees should have a slight bend when fully depressing the clutch or the brake pedal.
  • You will want to sit fairly close to the steering wheel, but not so close it will compromise your safety. If the steering wheel is within easy reach, it will help to reduce stress on your neck, back, wrists and shoulders.
  • Move the steering wheel in, out and up and down. Ideally, you should be able to rest your wrists on top of it with a slight bend at the elbow without your shoulders or back leaving the seat.
  • Angle the back rest to 100-110 degrees to allow for full contact of your back to the seat
  • The headrest should be in the middle of your head. Keep your neck and back of your head in a neutral

Check the mirrors

Adjust both mirrors when you are in the correct seating position so that you can easily see them by moving only your eyes. This will help your driving posture, forcing you to sit up straight if you can’t see them whilst slouching.

Be a smooth operator

  • Sit on a car seat pillow to provide more padding between you and the road and to act as a shock absorber.
  • Replace worn tyres to help reduce shaking and vibration.
  • Replace worn shock absorbers to limit the bounce of the car.

Keep it regular

  • Take regular breaks. When you sit in one position in the car, it will make your muscles stiff and achy. If you can, take a break every 30 minutes.
  • Try and move a little in your seat in between these driving breaks. Moving and stretching for 10 seconds is better than sitting still.
  • Try to plan ahead to schedule stops. Get out of the car and move around. Movement stimulates blood circulation, which brings nutrients and oxygen to your spine.

Heat it up and cool it down

  • If your car has heated seats, use this option if your muscles are achy, as heat relaxes tight muscles that have gone into spasm. If your car doesn’t have this option, use a heat pack wrapped in a towel and place it behind you.
  • If the back pain continues, stop and stretch and put an ice pack against your back, which will help reduce inflammation.

Enter and exit safely

  • Face away from the seat of the car when getting in. Sit and swivel in, do not twist your back.
  • Swivel out of the car facing away from the seat. Use the frame of the door, if needed, to scoot forward.
  • Attach devices like a strap with a handle to the frame of the door for added support.

Use the cruise

If your car has cruise control and if you can use it safely, do so. It will allow you to place both feet on the floor distributing your weight more evenly and so aid in stabilising and supporting your back.

See a professional

If you have persistent back pain whilst driving, it is time to see a professional. With back pain being too active can worsen the condition, but not moving around enough can do exactly the same. Here at Heale’s, we will show you how to strike the perfect balance.

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or .\