Did you know that those who drive for 20 hours per week or more are at increased risk of having musculoskeletal disorders? A recent study of business drivers showed that 65% had low back pain and had 43% had neck pain.
So why does it happen? What are the factors that contribute to neck and back pain from driving?
When driving, the driver is forced to sit in a constrained posture for a long period. It also puts significant stress to the neck and lower back. A person will start to experience discomfort then, gradually experience pain on different body parts like neck, back, and legs. The causes of discomfort include poor posture, seat design, road conditions, and vibration.
With these contributing factors, neck and back pain are inevitable unless drivers are aware of their driving posture. Driving ergonomics will not only help you to alleviate the pain you’re experiencing from driving but also, it will help you to avoid these problems in the first place.
Here are some posture tips that you can apply when driving:
1. Start with a car that fits your body
The next time you’re out car shopping, look for seats that allow you to adjust the height and angle independent of one another, an adjustable steering wheel, and a backrest that stops at about your shoulder height.
2. Make proper adjustments to the seat
The ergonomics of your car’s command center, the driver’s seat, is the most important thing you need to get right in order to avoid discomfort and fatigue while driving. Luckily the car companies have already done a lot of work to make it easy for you to get it just about perfect. Unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t know how to properly adjust the driver’s seat.
3. Adjust those mirrors
Sit up with a strong posture and adjust your mirrors. Line up your rear view mirror with the top of the rear window or some other reference point so that if you start to relax your posture and slouch you’ll be visually reminded of it.
This will help keep your posture straight, strengthen back muscles and reduce back pain. This will eventually improve your posture and begin to form muscle memory, contributing to keeping your back straighter. A more straight back is a less painful back.
4. Level the wheel
Set the wheel in a position so that it rotates with an up and down motion of your arms using the elbows and shoulders. If it is at too much of an angle to your body, your arms will have to move forward as they rotate. That engages the chest muscles as causes a lot of torque on your otherwise stationary torso and that can cause fatigue and posture problems.
5. Mind Your driving posture
It is easy to slouch or roll your shoulders after a short time driving. This will cause you all kinds of pain and prolonged problems.
Start by making sure you are sitting properly in the seat, and that you are in contact with the seat back and not slouching. Keep you back lumbar and shoulders supported. And make sure you hold the steering wheel. Don’t just rest your hands on it.
6. Tweak your surroundings
Roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back if the car has no lumbar support. You can also make a doughnut style pillow for your bum and tailbone. The difference is incredible and will ease lower back pain.
Don’t sit on your wallet. If you are driving, get in the habit of removing any items from your back pockets so you are sitting level.
7. Develop a range of different driving positions
Change your position frequently so you aren’t in the same one for any length of time. Sitting in the same position can cause discomfort, even if it is a good posture.
Hold onto the steering wheel with both hands except when shifting gears, but change hand position frequently to increase blood circulation and prevent fatigue.
8. Take breaks during long drives
Take a break at least every two hours. Stop the car and get out for a short stroll. This relaxes the muscles used while driving and gets the blood circulating again.
9. Rest when you’re done
After a long drive, muscles, tendons and ligaments have tightened up and your blood flow is not the best. Give them a few minutes to stretch out and recover before you start bending and lifting. Otherwise you might tear something. One tip to help you do this is to wait until song you’re listening to finishes playing.
You can have a lower chance of having an injury from driving if proper driving ergonomics are practiced.
It should be part of our daily living since driving is part of our everyday life.
But, for individuals who have already applied proper driving ergonomics and still suffer from neck and back pain, there are conservative managements like chiropractic care and massage therapy that can aid in pain management.
Our body is just like a car; without proper care it will get old and rusty over time. All it needs to stay in optimal shape is a little maintenance. Let’s start today to take care of our bodies.
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