Back Pain Prevention – Driving

Back pain can be brought about by driving, particularly on long journeys. Of course passengers can be affected too but as a driver your ability to move about is limited and so puts you at an increased risk of back pain. People who drive as a part of earning their living should therefore pay particular attention to reducing the potential for harm to their back.

There are ways to minimise the risk of back pain caused by driving and, in addition to watching this video, you can download the helpful advice sheet produced by the British Chiropractic Association.

Mind Your Posture: Driving

British Chiropractic Association Offers Advice To Keep You On The Road

[wpdm_file id=14]

The BCA’s Top Tips

Make adjustments
  • If you share a car, make sure the seat position is adjusted to suit you each time you get in.
  • The back of the seat should be set slightly backwards, so that it feels natural and your elbows should be at a comfortable and relaxed angle for driving.
Steering wheel
  • Once you have adjusted your seat correctly, your hands should fall naturally on the steering wheel, with just a slight bend in the arms.
  • If the wheel is too high and far away, tension will build up in your shoulders and upper back.
  • If it is too low and close to you, the wheel may be touching your legs, which will reduce your ability to turn it freely, putting strain on the wrists and the muscles of the upper back.
  • Airbag safety: Once you have adjusted your seat and steering wheel, ensure that the adjustments allow for the recommended ten inch (25.5cm) distance between yourself and the airbag cover in your steering wheel.
  • Set your mirror positions to suit you before you drive off.
  • Your reactions must be quick, so you should not need to move your head a lot.
  • The mirror positions should allow you to see all around the car with the movement of your eyes with minimal head movement.
  • Don’t try to reach out too early and avoid bending from the waist.
  • Set Your seatbelt should always lie across the top of your shoulder and never rub against your neck or fall onto the top of your arm.
  • Depending on your height, you may need to adjust the position at which the seat belt emerges from the body of the car.
  • If the adjustments available are insufficient, it is possible to purchase clips that help you adjust your seat belt height without impairing safety.
  • Once you have adjusted your seat correctly, your feet should fall naturally onto the pedals. You should be able to press the pedals to the floor by mainly moving your ankle and only using your leg a little.
  • Avoid wearing wear high heels, or very thick-soled shoes, as you will have to overextend the ankle in order to put pressure on the pedals. As well as making it much harder to deal with an emergency stop, this position will raise your thigh from the seat (reducing support to your leg) and create tension (and possibly cramp) in the calf. This, in turn, will impair the blood flow on a long journey.
Changing a tyre
  • Some jacks can be very stiff, so brace yourself by putting one knee on the ground (use a newspaper, road atlas or other ‘padding’), facing side-on to the car. Keeping your back straight, looking straight ahead with your shoulders over the handle. Use both hands to move the handle (remember that you are lifting a car up!). If it is tiring, take a break from time to time.
  • Avoid standing with your legs straight and bending as this puts great strain on the lower back.
  • To undo the wheel nuts, assume the same position as for jacking. This will allow you o use your body weight to help push down the wheel brace. Keep your arms slightly bent.
  • To tighten wheel nuts, face the opposite way, so that you can again take advantage of your body weight to make the job easier and safer.
  • Never position yourself so that you are pulling against gravity; this will put enormous stress on your back and shoulders and if the brace slipped off the nut, you may fall.
  • You may find it helpful to invest in a small length of metal piping that you can attach to the wheel brace to extend the leverage.
In summary
  • Relax – A relaxed driving position reduces stress on the spine, allowing your seat to take your weight.
  • Take regular breaks – The BCA advises that you should stop and stretch your legs (and arms!) at least every two hours, more often if possible. You should certainly stop more frequently if you are feeling any discomfort..
  • Clench your cheeks – If you are stuck in traffic, exercise in your seat. Try buttock clenches, side bends, seat braces (pushing your hands into the steering wheel and your back into the seat – tensing and relaxing) as well as shoulder shrugs and circles.
  • Leave the tight clothes at home – They will restrict your movement.
  • It’s all in the timing – Allow plenty of time for journeys to avoid stress.