Driving can be a pain in the …. back
Editors note: Allowing Ramona to get a little vacation from her vacation, today's Street Smarts is written by Dr. Goldi Jacques-Maynes, a chiropractor at Golden Chiropractic in Watsonville. Her submission attempts to help commuters prevent and end back pain that stems from long periods of time in the driver's seat. Check out www.goldenchiro.net or follow her on Facebook for more useful back-care tips, healthy lifestyle suggestions and inspirational quotes.
Is driving a pain in the back?
Back pain and driving can go hand in hand. For many of you that spend more than 30 minutes commuting each way to and from work, or if driving is how you make your living, you are probably familiar with the symptoms.
Low Back Pain and Driving
Our bodies are designed for movement. When driving for prolonged periods the lumbar curve -- bottom of your back -- is all but lost, placing extra strain on the vertebrae and discs. Also, the spine is subjected to considerable vibration and jolting which can lead to increased discomfort in the spine. As you drive, your feet are active, rather than being used to support and stabilize the lower body like when we sit in a chair. Finally, your abdominal muscles cannot provide enough stability to our upper body and arms when turning the wheel. When combined, these forces increase stresses in the lower back, which in return will significantly increase the risk of low back pain.
Tips for Coping With Back Pain While Driving
If you are dealing with back pain, you should never sit too long in the same position. Here are some ergonomic tips to improve your daily ride:
- Use lumbar support. Adjust it so it presses gently on the lower back at belt height. It can be something simple, like a rolled-up towel or a cushion specially designed for support.
- Move your seat forward. Don't sit too far away from the pedals. Having the seat close prevents you from slouching, and also keeps you from straining to reach the pedals.
- Angle your seat. The back of your seat should be adjusted to an angle of about 100 to 110 degrees to allow you to sit properly.
- Go cruising. If your car has cruise control, use it — if it’s safe to do so. This allows you to put both feet on the floor for short periods and distribute your weight more evenly.
- Stretch it out. Take regular breaks every two hours to stretch your legs, rest your back and prevent fatigue.
- Ice it down. If you still have back pain while driving, stop for a stretch and put an ice pack against your back when you’re sitting.
- Adjust your steering stance. Try holding your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. This allows you to rest your elbows on the armrests, which can help ease pain, especially in the upper back. Make sure you have a slight bend in the elbow.
- Heat your seat. If your car doesn’t have heated seats, many stores sell heated seat covers that can be placed on the driver’s seat.
- Get healthy. Exercise regularly and ask your chiropractor about exercises to strengthen the back and specific stretches to increase flexibility.