It’s springtime, and as the weather gets nice, more and more Americans are planning road trips. Whether you’re headed off to pick your son or daughter up from school, planning a beach or mountain vacation, visiting one of America’s spectacular national parks or just doing your daily commute to and from work, your back pain and neck pain may be a reflection of the way you have your car seat positioned.
It sounds simplistic, but posture has a great deal to do with stress in the muscles of your neck and back, and when you add that to the impact of sitting for long periods of time, the situation can be even worse. If you have your steering wheel set improperly or your driver’s seat up too close or too far from the pedals, or too high or too low, you could be causing yourself unnecessary discomfort.
Though your primary concern when driving should always be safety and your ability to see the road around you, your car’s driver seat is designed to provide you with support so that you stay comfortable whether you’re speeding down a highway, cruising a country road, or sitting for long periods in traffic.
As a lumbar back pain and neck pain specialist in New Jersey, I see many patients whose list of symptoms include their pain having first appeared immediately after a long road trip, or that their symptoms get worse when they’re behind the wheel.
To make sure that your seat is positioned properly and reduce the risk of pain, here are some important tips:
• When you’re sitting behind the wheel, always make sure that you’re sitting all the way back and that your back and rear end are positioned flush with the seat back.
• Make sure that the angle that your seat back is positioned in provides you with support along the length of your back, and that the tilt of the seat bottom supports you from your hip to your knee when you’re accelerating or braking.
• The best distance from the brake and clutch is one where you are fully able to depress both while keeping your knee slightly bent. Having to straighten your leg to accelerate or break or having your knees at a 90-degree angle means you are too far away and too close respectively.
• The steering wheel position should be easy to reach with your arms slightly bent. You’re able to drive most safely and comfortably with your hands at 10:00 and 2:00 on the wheel, and it should be tiled so that your hand position is just below the level of your shoulders.
• The headrest on the top of the seat back is there for a purpose: it should be level with the bottom of your skull, but you should not rest your head backward: keep your head about one inch forward.
• New vehicles have a lumbar support adjustment that allows you to provide additional support to your lumbar region. If your car does not have this feature, take a rolled up newspaper or towel and put it between the small of your back and the seat to provide additional support.
If you’re still experiencing neck or back pain after driving, you may need the assistance of our lumbar back pain specialist. Call to make an appointment at your earliest convenience.