Most of us jump in the car, check the mirrors, and drive off without ever thinking about whether our driving posture is ergonomically correct. But after driving for just a couple of hours, back pain is often the first sign that we are doing it wrong.
Can Driving Cause Lower Back Pain?
Sadly, very few car manufacturers are studying ergonomics when designing car seats. And the few that do are not necessarily adjusting for differences in heights, weights, and builds of drivers.
In short, our cars are part of the reason why we get aches and pains when we drive a lot. Add the tension of a commute and traffic, and you have a recipe for a lot of back pain.
Making it worse, most of us don’t know how to align our bodies properly for driving, and if we do know, we don’t take the time to do it.
What Is the Best Seating Position When Driving?
Just like when you are sitting at a desk or standing in line, how you hold your posture while you drive can help reduce pain, especially lower back and neck pain. A study in the United Kingdom found that almost three-quarters of British drivers end up with a stiff neck and lumbar pain.
To avoid that, ergonomic specialists recommend setting the driver’s seat back to a 100 or 110-degree angle and adjusting the seat to support your lumbar vertebrae. If that is not possible because of the seat design, adding cushions or pillows to support the lower back can help.
Additionally, lowering the steering wheel and keeping your hands at nine and three, instead of the often recommended ten and two, can help reduce the strain on your back.
How Bent Should Your Knees Be When Driving?
Some of us also have no idea how close we should position the steering wheel. Motor Trend says the perfect driving position is complicated. While reviewing the automatic seat settings from Mercedes, they found the manufacturer recommends being a little closer to the steering wheel, in a slightly reclined position with your knees and hips on a level plane.
If you are seated lower than your knees, not only does it put strain on your lower back, but the professional drivers determined that it also reduces visibility. The best options are to keep the steering wheel low and at least 10 to 12 inches from your body, especially because of the possibility of airbag deployment.
When driving for long distances, remember bathroom breaks are also a good opportunity to get out and stretch. Consider flexing your foot, rolling your shoulders back, and doing gentle stretches to keep your back from tightening up.
Talk to Total Chiro About Posture and Back Health
If your body already has some aches and pains from driving in a less than optimal position, it might be time for another type of adjustment. We can help you find the causes of your pain and help make it go away. Contact us for more information.