Long Drive- A Cause For Back Pain: Reasons, Best Driving Positions, Measures To Alleviate Low Back Pain

Driving is commonly the cause of lower back pain, especially when driving for prolonged periods of time. Driving can also worsen an existing back pain. The back should be supported adequately when driving to avoid further damage to the back.

Reasons For Having Low Back Pain When Driving Long Distances

  • When a person is driving for extended periods of time, the spine loses its lumbar curve. This puts added strain on the discs and vertebrae.
  • When driving, particularly on uneven surfaces, the spine has to suffer from lot of rough movements, jumps, and jerks.
  • The current range of cars has a reduced roof line resulting in reduced internal space. Due to this, the seat is positioned lower and tilted backwards leading to straight positioning of the legs. This puts a lot of strain on the hamstrings and puts a pulling force on the pelvic attachments and causes the pelvis to roll backwards. This also puts strain on the cervical spine/neck as the seat also has to be tilted back and the neck has to be kept flexed by up to 20 degrees for the driver to look straight ahead.

Back Pain Due to Long Drive

The Best Driving Position In Order To Avoid Having Back Pain When On A Long Drive

  • Ensure that your car seats are providing enough thigh support as that matters a lot if you are traveling long distances.
  • Your seat adjustment should be such that you are comfortably positioned from the pedals. If your seat is at an extended distance from the pedals, this can cause added strain on the upper back and neck.
  • The steering wheel should be adjusted so that you can reach it comfortably with the arm flexed. Most cars do offer tilt steering option these days, chose the position that is the most comfortable. You can even change the steering positions during long journey for a refreshing change to the posture.
  • Having a lumbar support while driving is very beneficial. The lumbar support should be adjusted such that it lightly presses the lower back at the height of the belt.

Measures To Alleviate Low Back Pain When Driving Long Distance

  • Having a lumbar support is very vital for alleviating low back pain while driving. If your car does not have a lumbar support then you should invest in an in-car lumbar support to avoid low back pain while driving for long periods of time.
  • Automatic cars do not cause that much strain to the back, but in manual cars, due to continuous use of the clutch results in pressure on the lumbar discs.
  • If you suffer from back pain during long distance journeys, then it is advisable to take breaks in between, get out of the car and walk around, stretch your legs, instead of completing the journey in one go.
  • After lengthy driving periods, the back becomes weak and more vulnerable to any injury or damage. So, the bending and stretching of the back should be avoided.

Causes Of Shoulder And Neck Pain When Driving

Causes Of Shoulder And Neck Pain When Driving

  • Shoulder and neck pain while driving occurs due to stiffening of the muscles in the neck and shoulders and holding the wheel very forcefully.
  • Make an effort to relax as much as possible when driving.
  • The elbows should be slightly flexed at the wheel when driving.
  • Some cars may have a steering wheel that is slightly offset from the center of the seat. In this case, the driver has to hold the steering wheel at an angle to the body. This causes more strain to the neck and shoulders.

Measures To Find Out The Correct Positioning Of The Car Seat To Avoid Back Pain

Given below are two simple tests to check if the car seat is in the correct position or not:

  • Place the palms of your hands together with the elbows flexed and the wrists touching the chest. In this position, the fingers will be pointed towards the steering wheel at a right angle to the spine. If the fingers are not pointing to the center of the wheel, then it indicates that the wheel is likely offset.
  • Place both the hands on the steering wheel and look down between your arms at your legs. You should be able to see the same amount of both the legs. Usually the right leg will be partly concealed by the right arm. This indicates that the shoulder girdle is turned towards the left in relation to pelvis.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 14, 2018

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