Is Being Behind the Wheel Causing Your Neck Pain?

Driving has long been a benchmark for adulthood and a symbol of freedom, but along with the mobility it offers, driving can also create stress, and that can lead to physical problems.  It’s hard enough to deal with traffic and the frustration of dealing with other drivers, but if doing so is also contributing to physical pain, then it’s time to take a look at your driving habit and position and see what kind of changes you can make.

There have been numerous ergonomic studies that have looked at the causes of neck, back and shoulder pain, and driving often tops the list. The good news is that the problem can easily be fixed by taking a few simple steps and paying attention to your own unique needs.

Today’s cars have many built-in features that provide additional lumbar support and head support, but not everybody takes the time to make sure that these issues have been addressed – and not everybody is driving a new car that has this equipment installed.

The steps below can all help to alleviate neck and shoulder pain symptoms you’re having if your problem is limited to positioning. If, however, you try them and your discomfort does not abate, an appointment with our cervical spine specialist in New Jersey can help you identify the source of your problem and put you on the road to recovery.

  • First, take a look at where you have your seat positioned. If your seat is too far away from the windshield and gas/brake pedals, then you’re probably reaching and leaning forward, and that’s a position that puts your spine at risk. Set your seat so that you are seated upright, paying close attention to how your lower back feels and what position you’re holding it in. To reduce stress on your discs, recline your seat, but only by about 30 degrees. The same is true of your seat’s height. You shouldn’t be leaning down or reaching up, and at all times your seat should be supporting your back, your neck, and your upper arms.
  • Pay attention to where your head is. Your seat has a head rest for a reason. Make sure that you are using it.
  • If your car seat has built-in lumbar support, take the time to customize it to your body. If you don’t have it, buy yourself a lumbar support pillow to fill the gap between the seat and your lower back.
  • If you have cruise control, take advantage of it – especially if you are driving far. Using cruise control lets you relax your legs and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Stop and move around every once in a while. Sitting too long is a bad idea at work, at home, and behind the wheel. This is especially true if your vehicle has bucket seats that position your glutes and hips lower than your knees.
  • Look at where your hands are positioned on the wheel. You may have been taught to keep them at ten and two, but four and eight are actually a lot more relaxing for your neck and shoulders, and just as safe.

For more help, contact us.

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