If you drive fairly long distances to and from work everyday, if your job requires
you to drive long hours, or, if you’re the designated driver in your family – it’s
likely you’ve experienced back pain.
In fact around 30-60% of drivers report having back pain at some point in their life,
and a lot of the people we see at Stay Active Rehab come to us in pain as a result of
spending 30 minutes plus on the road, almost daily!
But why does something as simple as driving trigger off back pain when it’s not
Well, driving for long periods of time exposes the body to many different forces such
as acceleration, sudden stops, and most notably vibrations from the road – and it
especially affects those who drive larger heavy goods vehicles for hours at a time!
Driving also involves the use of your feet to control the car’s pedals which means
they are not used to help stabilize and support your lower body as they normally
would when you’re sitting.
So it’s no wonder why a combination of these factors as well as the inadequate design
of some vehicle seats can cause back problems for many of us. Simply because back
pain can make driving unpleasant (and in some cases, unbearable!), I put together a
list of tips to help make your next journey as pain-free as possible.
Here are 7 tips to help you…
* 1. Get Comfortable Before You Set Off
A small irritation can quickly grow into an unbearable pain, and if you’ve got a long
journey ahead, or even if you’re just in the car for 20 minutes, this can make your
journey unpleasant and likely to affect the rest of your day.
So, before you set off take a few moments to settle into a comfortable position.
Check your mirrors, adjust your seat – this is particularly important if you share
your car as, these may have been changed by another driver and you don’t want to
strain your body, or have to turn awkwardly when driving placing strain on your neck
and upper back.
* 2. Adjust Your Mirrors
Making sure your mirrors are in the right position is especially important so you
don’t have to move or twist to see out of them properly.
As a general rule, you should only have to move your eyes to be able to see out of
Tip: If you adjust them while sitting up straight – if you begin to slouch you’ll
lose vision in the mirrors, which will act as a reminder to sit up.
* 3. Use A Towel For Support
For additional support while driving – roll up a towel and place it behind your lower
back. Car seats don’t often support the curve of your back. By using a towel you’ll
help yourself out by maintaining good posture, making back pain a lot less likely to
* 4. Make Sure You’re Sitting Comfortably
Most people don’t realize it, but when they’re driving their seat is positioned
completely wrong, which can cause back pain and problems with posture. As you take a
seat, make sure your seat is only slightly reclined so that it feels natural to sit
comfortably – think 100 degree angle instead of 90, and you’ll be sitting in about
the right position to drive pain free.
If you recline your seat too far, your head won’t be able to comfortably rest against
the head – rest which can cause tension in your neck and upper back.
* 5. Take Regular Breaks
I know you see signs for ‘taking a break’ along the side of the road all the time –
but it’s for good reason. Stopping regularly (around every hour) to move and stretch
will help ease any tension and reduce any muscle stiffness.
When you take a break, do some gentle twists to loosen the body up. And if your neck
and shoulders are feeling tense – try shrugging and rolling your shoulders back and
forth, then rolling your neck from side to side.
* 6. Have Cruise Control?
Use it! If your car has cruise control, use this when you can – usually on long
stretches of road when it’s quiet or the traffic is flowing nicely.
While using it, place your feet on the floor so your legs form a 90-degree angle and
gently push them down into the floor. This will help naturally support your spine,
and put you in a neutral position without having to press down on the pedal
* 7. Exercise Regularly
Even just adding exercise into your routine 2-3 times a week will help strengthen
your back muscles, release tension and help you maintain a healthy posture. Cardio
exercises like cycling, walking and swimming are great for overall fitness, and
weights are perfect for improving muscle strength.
And if your back pain is really bad, making you fearful of participating in exercise
in case it makes your back worse, you can always give us a call at 416-634-0005 or
click Here to request a FREE Consultation with one of our Physiotherapists