The Top 5 Ways To Drive With Less Back Pain.
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Personally, I have one of those little electric scooters, I live close to work and it is ideal for zipping around to the gym, shopping, meeting people, etc. I don’t drive but I see a lot of patients who spend many hours behind the wheel here in Cardiff. If you drive for a living then there is a chance you may be suffering from back pain right now or have suffered from it in the past.
Our bodies are designed for movement, when we don’t move then things can get a little stiff. If we do not oil our mechanics then they can cease up causing pain and dysfunction. Sitting down behind the wheel for long periods can not only give us a numb bum but also long term back discomfort if it is not looked after. Every week I see taxi drivers, truckers, delivery drivers and commuters that have to travel up to four hours a day to get to work and back. Some of my truck drivers will go for 8-hour stints at a time. They know it is causing them pain but also have the dilemma of needing to work like everyone else. Back pain affects up to 1/3 of the UK population. A staggering statistic.
Below are the best ways to help look after your spine, keep it mobile and also keep the pain levels down naturally while driving.
1. Never keep anything in your back pocket while driving:
Some people have wallets over 3” thick. Driving with a wallet or anything thicker thank a credit card can put a strain on the spine. If a wallet is, say in the right back pocket then the pelvis will be shifted up to the right. If this happens for even short periods on a regular basis, you could be setting yourself up for back pain. Having a wallet in your back pocket can strain the ligaments of the pelvis, shorten some of the small muscles in the spine and cause a painful shift of the pelvis. Not only that, it can compress the piriformis muscle that lies over the sciatic nerve. Give it enough time and you may get sciatica while you are at it. “Back pain caused by back-pocket wallets is so common it has nicknames: hip-pocket syndrome, wallet neuropathy, and Costanza Wallet Syndrome”. We all know habits are hard to break but at least this one is not an addictive habit. It’s best to just stop putting anything in your back pocket if you drive. Simple as that. You can save yourself a lot of pain and money that you would have to spend on treatment.
2. Have regular breaks:
Sitting stationary for long periods will cause stiffness. It’s inevitable. How many times have you got out of a cinema seat and felt discomfort? My hand goes up for that one. Aim to have a pit stop for 15 minutes every 2 hours. Your back will thank you. Plan your stops too or the likelihood of you just plowing on to get to your destination is high. We can easily go on autopilot, feel the pain brewing, ignoring it then taking 20 minutes to stumble out of the car to get straight. Let's hope the police are not watching you and stop to breathalyse you wasting more time. (Also don’t drink and drive folks). If you are a back pain sufferer take regular breaks more frequently, every 30 minutes if you have to. Get out of the car, have a little walk around (not on the motorway) stretch your arms up and if you can, do a nice deep squat. It will feel very satisfying and refreshing. Take some deep breaths and a drink of water. Now you can continue.
3. Grab a towel:
A simple yet effective method for reducing back pain while driving. Rolling up a towel and placing it behind your back will give your back extra support. Use a soft and thick towel for the right amount of padding. Many car seats are notoriously uncomfortable. Especially to sporty bucket type seats. Cars have better suspension than they used to, but sitting for long periods at a time can as we have said cause discomfort in even the non-problematic spines. If you know you are going on a long trip set your reminders for everything for what we have mentioned so far.
4. Keep on moving!
What I mean here is regularly changing your position while you are driving. Shift a little to the left, shift a little to the right. Lean back into the seat for a little while and then lean forward for a little while. By changing your position regularly you will limit the discomfort compared to if you don't move. Simple things make big changes in pain levels. If you like music then bop your head a little for some extra movement (try not to hit your head on the steering wheel).
5. See your chiropractor before a long trip:
This may be self-advertising but many people come to me here in Cardiff before a long trip, whether a long haul flight or car trip, they often come on the day of their adventure. Many chiropractors near me report the same thing. Patients feel it loosens them up to prepare them for a long trip in the car. It reduces any pain they currently have and they feel cared for which creates a sense of well being (the thought of a long trip can be stressful). If you have never seen a chiropractor in Cardiff before and are thinking about it, then check out the rest of the website to see what we can offer. Treatment will loosen the muscles of the spine, release tension in the joints and if you combine all of the above you should be driving in peace and harmony (unless you hit traffic).
Bonus tip: In the references section highlighted in red, you can see what the correct driving seat position is. A good position will but your spine in the best position and further reduce pain levels while driving.