Getting your back in gear
8 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Back While Driving
The other day I was stuck in traffic, again, and two thoughts crept into my mind. Firstly, for all the roadworks I see, how can there be quite so many potholes still? However, secondly, and more importantly, do you ever stop to think just how much of our lives we spend sat in cars? Prolonged periods behind the wheel can take a toll on your back if you’re not careful. Poor posture, inadequate support, and prolonged sitting can contribute to back discomfort and even lead to long-term issues. To ensure a comfortable and pain-free driving experience, here are some essential tips for looking after your back while on the road:
- Adjust Your Seat Properly: One of the fundamental aspects of back care while driving is setting up your seat in an ergonomic position. Start by adjusting the seat height so that you have a clear view of the road and easy access to the pedals without straining. Ensure that your seat is not too far from the pedals to avoid overstretching your legs, which can strain your lower back.
- Maintain Proper Posture: Maintaining good posture while driving is crucial for preventing back pain. Sit upright with your back against the seat and your shoulders relaxed. Keep both hands on the steering wheel at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions to distribute the workload evenly and minimise strain on your arms and shoulders. Prolonged leaning onto one arm or out a window might work wonders for casual driving image, but your body won’t be impressed, sorry!
- Use Lumbar Support: Many modern cars come equipped with adjustable lumbar support to help maintain the natural curve of your spine and alleviate pressure on your lower back. If your car doesn’t have built-in lumbar support, consider using a lumbar roll or cushion to provide additional support and promote proper spinal positioning.
- Take Regular Breaks: Prolonged sitting, even with proper ergonomics, can still strain your back muscles over time. To combat stiffness and improve circulation, make it a habit to take regular breaks during long drives. Plan a quick stop every hour or two to stretch your legs, walk around, and perform simple back stretches to relieve tension.
- Adjust Your Steering Wheel and Mirrors: Ensure that your steering wheel and mirrors are properly adjusted to minimise the need for twisting and reaching while driving. Your steering wheel should be positioned in a way that allows you to maintain a relaxed posture with your arms slightly bent. Adjust your mirrors to provide optimal visibility without straining your neck or back.
- Stay Hydrated and Avoid Caffeine: Proper hydration is essential for maintaining the health of your spinal discs, which act as shock absorbers for your back. Drink plenty of water during your journey to keep your discs hydrated and flexible. Avoid excessive caffeine consumption, as it can contribute to dehydration and exacerbate back pain. I should add I am not telling you that coffee is off limits at the next service station, I’m not that brave, but to try and drink it in moderation.
- Invest in Supportive Accessories: Consider investing in supportive accessories such as seat cushions, ergonomic seat covers, or backrests designed specifically for driving. These accessories can provide additional comfort and support, especially during long drives or if you have a history of back problems. They are easy to find and relatively cheap to get hold of.
- Perform Regular Back Exercises: Strengthening and stretching exercises can help improve the flexibility and resilience of your back muscles, reducing the risk of discomfort and injury while driving. Incorporate exercises targeting your core, back, and hips into your daily routine to keep your back strong and supple.
And there you have it! Implementing good back health is important in all aspects of life, but maintaining a healthy spine will at least give you one less thing to worry about out on the roads. Furthermore, for those standstill moments such as at the traffic lights you can always take the opportunity to do other exercises such as neck stretches. Please do remember to put safety first and while driving keep your focus on the vehicle and the road. Safe Travels!
Glen comes from an emergency medicine background having spent 8 years working as part of an ambulance crew. He recently then graduated as a chiropractor from AECC College.
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