With an increase in driving over the holiday season, this often also means an increase in back pain associated with long stints in the car. Several modifiable factors contribute to the onset and severity of lower back pain with sitting or driving. I have recently returned from driving around this amazing country without any onset of lower back pain so hopefully, these tips can help you the same way they helped me.
Sitting isn’t inherently bad for you, however, prolonged time in any one position can expose you to a greater risk of developing back pain. Poor ergonomics in these positions has the potential to put prolonged or abnormal loads on structures in your body that aren’t equipped to take that load. Given driving typically involves long periods in the same position, it is paramount to have correct sitting and vehicle ergonomics to avoid back pain, fatigue, and even stress.
Try these tips to improve your sitting position in the car
Increase the lumbar support - most cars these days will have this built into the car. If they don't or you feel like you need more support purchase lumbar support (we have a great option in the clinic) or simply a rolled-up towel will do the trick.
Increase your seat height - most people have their seat set too low, increasing your seat height will usually reduce the load on your lower back and your hips. Ensure that your knees are higher than your hips.
If you are driving, ensure your seat is not too close or too far away from the steering wheel, you should aim to have a slight bend in your elbows with your hands on the wheel at 2 and 10 o'clock. And still, be able to fully depress the pedals.
Rest & Move.
Ensure you take a rest from sitting at least every 2 hours. Not only to limit your driving fatigue but to get your body out of that C-shaped sitting position. And try not to get out of the car and sit down, stay standing and move. Movement is arguably the best thing we can do for our backs. On our trip around the country we would usually get the kids out of the car and play a game of tip or find a park to run around, but if you do not have any little rug rats to chase around try some of these exercises that you can easily do anywhere, and your back will love you for it.
Go for a brisk walk - this is a great activity to move and lubricate all the joints in your back.
Toes touch stretch - you might not be able to touch your toes but try to roll down through your spine giving your back a nice big stretch, repeat 5 times.
Side Stretch - bend from side to side slowly, you can do this with your arm above your head or by your side. repeat 5 times on each side
Arm Circles - circumduct your arms within a comfortable range of motion. Repeat 10 times.
Leg Swings - while holding onto something for stability perform gentle leg swings forwards and backward. repeat 5 x each leg.
Diagnosis & treatment
The highest risk factor for developing lower back pain is a history of lower back pain. So it's vitally important that if you have experienced back pain in the past you have a thorough assessment to accurately diagnose the cause of your pain and the factors that have contributed. Tight muscles, joints, and a weak muscular system are common factors that will contribute, and seeking the guidance and assistance of a trained health professional will help reduce these factors.
We hope this helps you eliminate back pain this festive season and if you are on the road please drive safe and take your time.