Advice on Back and Neck Pain when Driving
Take the Back Pain out of Driving
Whether driving or travelling as a passenger, you could be suffering driving-related back pain. At the VitaPhysical Jason our Osteopath can help to reduce driving related back pain and neck pain as well as offer advice on pain management including how to help prevent problems in the future.
Back Pain Sufferers:
- Choose a car with an adjustable lumbar support. Alternatively use a car spinal support.
- Choose a car with a higher kerb height to make getting in and out easier on the spine.
- Depressing the clutch places pressure on your back. Choose an automatic to avoid this.
- Power steering also significantly reduces the load on the spine.
- After a journey, return mobility to your spine by walking before you unload your boot.
- On a long drive be sure to stop for a few minutes once or twice an hour. Take a five minute walk to loosen the spine and minimise the aches and pains.
Is the car the right fit for you?
Sometimes the design of the car itself can lead to back problems. By using ‘The Five Tests’ a prospective buyer can make an informed choice of car and hopefully avoid drivers back pain.
The Five Tests:
- The ‘Praying’ Test
The driver places both hands together pointing forwards. If the steering wheel is not offset then the driver should be pointing at the centre of the wheel. Having an offset wheel means that drivers tend to rotate the spine to compensate for its position, causing back strain.
- The ‘Fist’ Test
With the seat in the normal driving position, make a fist with the left hand keeping the thumb to the side of the index finger. You should be able to put your fist on the top of your head. If you cannot, then there is probably insufficient headroom.
- The ‘Look Down’ Test
With both hands placed evenly on the steering wheel look down at your legs, it should be possible to see equal amounts of both legs between your arms.
- The ‘Right Leg’ Test
This test should be performed after driving for a short while. Look down and examine the position of your right leg. The right foot should be roughly in line with the thigh.
- The ‘Kerb’ Test
Swing the right leg out of the car as though getting out and place the right foot on the ground. Try and ensure the lower leg is in a vertical position. The surface of the right thigh should be sloping down towards the knee. If it is sloping upwards (i.e. if the knee is higher then the hip) then the car is too high for you and you may have difficulty when exiting.
Correct driving position
Take the time to familiarise yourself with all the adjustments (e.g. seat, steering wheel, seat belt). Start by getting the seat into the ‘initial set-up position’. This means:
- Steering wheel fully up and fully forward
- Seat at its lowest, and fully backwards
- Cushion tilted so that the front edge is in the lowest position
- Back rest approximately thirty degrees reclined from vertical
- Lumbar adjustment backed off
- Raise the seat as high as is comfortable to maximise your vision of the road
- Check you have adequate clearance from the roof
- Move the seat forwards until you can easily depress the clutch and accelerator pedals
- Ensure you have maximum vision of the road
- Adjust the cushion tilt angle to support the thighs along the length of the cushion
- Avoid pressure behind the knee
- Adjust the back rest so it provides continuous support along the length of the back
- Avoid reclining the seat too far as it will cause excessive bending or the head and neck
- Adjust the lumbar support to ensure even pressure along the length of the back rest
- Adjust the steering wheel backwards and downwards for easy reach
- Check for clearance of your thighs/knees when using the pedals
- Ensure the display panel is in full view and not obstructed
- Adjust the headrest so that its centre is level with your eyes
- Be aware that many cars will not allow you as much flexibility of driving posture as you may wish. Particular cars may cause you to adopt a ‘coping’ posture, which over time may lead to spinal problems.
Getting in and out of the car
Here are a couple of hints to lessen the strain on your back as you get in and out of your car:
- Move your seat back away from the steering wheel as far as it will go
- Open the door all the way, and place your left hand on the steering wheel and your right hand on the edge of your seat, next to your right thigh, or on the edge of the roof
- Lift both legs off the floor, and move your legs and upper body together towards the open door. You should spin on your bottom, without twisting your spine
- Put your feet on the ground and use your legs, hands, and arms to help raise yourself up and out of the car. Push off with your hands from the seat or the door frame, whichever affords you better leverage. Remember to keep your back straight and your head up
- To get into the car, turn your back to the open door and sit down in the seat, using the strength of your arms and legs again to lower your body into the seat slowly. You should still be facing off to the side of the car, not toward the front
- Put your left hand on the steering wheel or another stable part of the car, and move your body as a single unit back toward the steering wheel.
- Just like getting out, your whole body pivots on your bottom and your legs swing into position without twisting your back.
We hope you have found this information useful. Remember pain is a warning signal that you are doing damage to your body so keep up with your regular ‘Body MOT’ to help keep back pain at bay.
For more information and guidance don’t hesitate to call us on 0191 565 8886.
The information provided is for general guidance only and must not be used for diagnosis or treatment of a health problem. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.