Are you sitting comfortably?
One of the common causes of back pain can result from motorists failing to adjust their car seat correctly, often leading to long term stress of the joints and muscles found in the lower area of your spine.
In September 2001, the RAC Foundation reported that many motorists adopt a “banana” position when they’re driving which involves leaning into the wheel whilst stretching their legs to reach the pedals. This position leaves little support for your back, resulting in muscle fatigue and compression on the disks of the spine, which can lead to more serious injuries in the future.
When a vehicle is in motion, your body is subject to forces that it’s not used to. Whilst your feet are tied up manoeuvring the brake pedal and accelerator, they’re unable to support and stabilise your lower body, which can increase the chance of back problems. Below are some tips from motors.co.uk on how to avoid long term back and spinal defects:
• Make sure that you position yourself in the seat in a way that allows you to fully depress the clutch pedal; your knees should be bent at approximately 130 degrees.
• Adjust the height of your seat so that you can clearly recognise and read the dials on the dashboard. Once the seat is adjusted correctly, both your hands should fall naturally onto the steering wheel in a ten-to-two position, with just a slight bend in your arms. Shorter drivers should NOT sit too close to the wheel as the airbag is far more likely to cause them injury.
• Avoid holding the steering wheel with one hand as this might cause your body to twist awkwardly.
• Adjust your steering column so that your hands are resting slightly lower than your shoulders when you’re in the normal driving position.
• Position the head rest so that it is level with the top of your head, or at least no lower than eye level.
• Your car seat should have firm contact with your body, therefore it is recommended that you sit in an upright or slightly reclining position with your back fully against the seat.
• Always check your seating position in your mirrors - if your posture has dropped and you are slumping your view will not be as clear, use this as a reminder to correct your posture.
• Change your posture from time to time whilst you’re driving - moving around will help prevent tiredness.
• If you find that your seat is too hard, try using a cushion or seat wedge – you can obtain wedges that are specifically designed with a coccyx cut out for additional comfort.
• Take regular breaks if you’re driving long distances, making sure that you stretch your legs and try to perform some back stretching exercises when possible.
• When you’ve completed a journey, don’t leap out of the car and unload heavy or awkward luggage, take a moment to stand up and stretch your back.
If you have an existing back problem, it is advised that purchasing an automatic car will cause less stress on the spine than a manual vehicle. Another way to combat the stress to your posture is to consider taking Pilates classes. Pilates specialises in offering ways to prevent and change problematic postural habits, and is known to help counter anxiety and stress which can be caused from regular long distance driving.