5 Ways To Support Your Back When Driving

18 April 2019

family road trip Willow Chiropractic

You’ve packed your bags, you’ve loaded the car, you’re off on holiday! More and more people are choosing “staycations” over jaunts abroad, taking in the beautiful sights of Cornwall, the Peak and Lake Districts, Scottish Highlands and Snowdonia. However, with these staycations comes the long drive to get there, and too many people are taking the journey with bad driving posture which will ultimately result in aches, stiffness, and pains – not what you want on your well-deserved time away!

This extra time spent sitting in a car seat is bad news for our backs because it causes 50% more pressure on the lumbar discs compared to standing up. A recent study by Volkswagen and the British Chiropractic Association revealed that 70% of van drivers who spend seven hours behind the wheel each day take an average of 15 days off each year as a result of work-related back pain, costing the UK economy approximately £21billion.

Many car manufacturers have altered car seats so that our knees are now higher than our hips. Unfortunately, this is a far from ideal sitting position, compromising what we chiropractors would recommend as ‘good posture’. On top of this, when we drive our legs move asymmetrically to use the pedals, causing us to twist and turn in order to be able to check what’s going on around us, and to stretch in order to change gears and steer the wheel.

Most of us have experienced feeling stiff and sore when getting out of the car after a long journey. This is probably a direct result of poor posture whilst driving. In fact, according to consumer research by the British Chiropractic Association, 25% of those questioned felt that driving was one of the factors affecting their posture. 

Here are five things that you can do to improve your in-car posture:

1. Adjust your seat to the correct position.

The study by VW and BCA found that two thirds of van drivers surveyed could not correctly adjust their seat when asked. You should be able to comfortably see over the steering wheel, with your resting at a gentle angle when resting on the pedals – you shouldn’t have to stretch to reach them.
Similarly, you shouldn’t have to stretch to reach the steering wheel. Your hands should fall naturally and comfortably on the wheel.

2. Take the time to set your mirror positions properly to suit you.

You should be able to see around the car without having to move your head too much. BCA recommends lifting your chest by five degrees before adjusting your mirrors to suit, to encourage you to maintain a more upright position during your drive and prevent slumping and compressing your discs.

3. Recline your seat. 

Just ever so slightly, so that it’s not bolt upright. This will support and complement the gentle S shape of the spine. You should rest your back against the seat comfortably, not leaning forward away from it. Aim for a roughly 110 degree angle between your back and your thighs.

4. Extra support.

Pop a small pillow behind your lower back for extra lumbar support, and use one to sit on too to raise your hips as much as possible. Ideally your hips would be higher than your knees.

5. Think with your feet.
Wear comfortable shoes with a supportive sole. Avoid mid or high heels that cause you to overextend your ankle. You should be able to push the pedals to the floor while maintaining a slight bend in your knee.

Take an extra 10 minutes before you set off on your staycation to set up your driving seat correctly – you’ll thank us when you get there, promise!

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