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What Is The Correct Driving Position To Avoid Back Pain?

Most drivers experience fatigue and discomfort after spending long hours sitting in their driving seat.

While these are short-term annoyances for many drivers, fatigue and discomfort aggravate lower back pain in drivers who spend a lot of time on the road, and they can even contribute to the development of lower back problems.

These problems can largely be avoided by configuring the driving seat correctly and by adopting the correct driving posture.

In this article, we discuss driving-related lower back pain and report on the best practices for ensuring a good driving posture. We also discuss how chiropractors can alleviate driving-related lower back pain.

Does Driving Cause Lower Back Pain?

Driving for long periods on a regular basis has been shown to contribute to lower back pain (Driving-Associated Musculoskeletal Problems). While this is of particular concern for lorry, bus, taxi, and ride-share drivers, long-distance commuters should also be wary.

The sitting posture adopted while driving increases pressure on the back muscles and spinal discs.

When this occurs on a regular enough basis, this pressure can aggravate pre-existing lower back problems (The Impact Of Driving With Back Pain), and even contribute to their development (Musculoskeletal Pain In Professional Drivers).

The RAC has itself considered these issues and how to rectify them (Ergonomic Driving Guide: Are You Sitting Comfortably?).

Factors Determining The Ideal Driving Posture

Adopting the correct driving posture is crucial to preventing lower back pain (Good Driving Posture).

A brief demonstration of the correct driving posture is available in this short video (VIDEO). As shown in the video demonstration, the correct configuration of the driving seat is an important part of improving bad driving posture. 

We have provided an overview of the steps necessary to properly adjust your driving posture below. Additional tips can be found in an excellent online article in DRIVING (The Perfect Driving Position). By following these suggestions, postural-related issues and lower back problems can be minimised.

Adjust Your Driving Seat To The Correct Height

Adjust the driving seat height so that your hips are level with your knees.

In this position, your thighs make full contact with the seat, allowing even distribution of your weight. This also helps you maintain the natural curvature of your spine, further reducing strain on your lower back. By adopting this driving posture, blood circulation to your back is optimised.

Recline The Driving Seat At A Slight Angle

Recline your seat to a slight angle (100° – 110°). Do not recline your seat further, this can actually worsen back pain.

The suggested angle helps maintain the spine’s natural curvature, reducing the load on your lumbar region.

Adjust The Headrest To The Correct Height

Adjust the headrest so that your head rests comfortably against the headrest while driving, providing further support for your spine. The top of the headrest should align with the top of your head. 

This adjustment reduces the likelihood of developing neck and shoulder tension during prolonged driving, and it minimises the risk of neck injuries in an accident.

Adjust The Driving Seat Position For Proper Foot Placement And Proper Steering Wheel Placement

1. Position The Driving Seat To Optimise Arm Comfort

Adjust your seat so that you do not have to extend your arms too far forward or upward to hold the steering wheel (keeping your back in contact with the seat to support your spine).

This adjustment minimises the likelihood of developing fatigue and pain in your shoulders, neck, and upper back.

2. Make Sure That Your Feet Reach The Pedals Without Stretching

The driving seat position adopted should also allow your feet to comfortably reach the pedals (with knees slightly bent and your heels on the floor).

Additionally, your feet should be parallel (to each other), and your legs should be aligned with your hips. In automatic vehicles, maintain an even alignment of your pelvis by keeping your left foot flat on the footrest.

These adjustments minimise strain on your legs, hips, and lower back while facilitating effective operation of the pedals.

3. Adjust The Steering Wheel Position

Adjust the steering wheel so that you can comfortably reach it with a slight bend in your elbows. The top of the steering wheel should not exceed shoulder height. Check that you can still see the dashboard clearly.

This adjustment minimises strain on your shoulders, neck, and lower back. 

Adjust Your Mirrors Properly

This simple fix can reduce the risk of neck and shoulder strain.

Other Tips For Minimising Driving-Related Back Pain

Maintain A Comfortable Temperature

Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate back pain.

Wear Proper Footwear

Choose the correct footwear for driving. This is essential for maintaining proper driving posture and avoiding back pain.

Get A Lumbar Support Cushion For The Lower Back

Add a lumbar support cushion at the curve of your back. A lumbar support cushion helps maintain the inward curve of the lower spine (particularly important if you’re driving for long periods).

Take Regular Breaks

During long drives, stop and take regular breaks. This is essential for keeping your muscles relaxed.

Use Heat or Cold Therapy

Reduce pain and inflammation in your lower back by applying a heat pack or cold pack (as appropriate).

How Can A Chiropractor Help With Lower Back Pain

Chiropractic care provides a holistic care package for drivers, providing treatments for lower back pain, advice to help them manage the underlying causes, and tips to help them adopt the best driving posture. In doing so, we can ensure that driving-related back pain does not become a chronic issue.

The services we can offer to help manage and alleviate your lower back pain include:

Posture Analysis and Correction

We can help you achieve your ideal driving posture, which is crucial for those who spend long hours behind the wheel.

Ergonomic Training

We can provide guidance on ergonomic practices, including the correct setup of the driver’s seat and steering wheel.

Therapeutic Exercises

We can recommend specific exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting your back and enhance spinal health.

Soft Tissue Therapy

We can apply massage therapy and myofascial release to alleviate tension and reduce pain in the lower back area. These therapies help relax tight muscles, ease spasms, improve circulation, and promote healing.

Spinal Manipulation

We can apply spinal manipulation to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the lower back area. This technique requires the manual application of a controlled, abrupt force to the affected spinal joint.

Conclusion: What Is The Correct Driving Position To Avoid Back Pain

All drivers should take a proactive approach to correcting their driving position. By improving their posture, drivers can increase their comfort levels and protect the health of their spine.

To achieve the correct driving posture, the driving seat must be adjusted to provide support for your spine. After making these seat corrections, all vehicle controls should be easily accessible without straining.

If you want to know more, download this excellent article from PhysioMed (Correct Sitting Posture: Driving).

Sadique Mamun

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