Back Pain and Driving

By Ehren Allen, PT, CMT

Back Pain and Driving

There is usually not a day when we don’t spend some time driving. Unfortunately, sitting in a car is just not the same as sitting in a chair. Back pain and driving have a positive correlation due to when a car is in motion the body is subject to different forces from accelerating and decelerating, movements side to side, and vibrations. These movements can all negatively impact a person with lumbar issues.

One back issue that can be negatively impacted with driving position is spinal stenosis. This is a condition where the spinal canal becomes narrowed and leads to crowding and compression of the spinal nerves. The way you position your car seat can play a major role on if you have a good or bad back day.

Driving Posture

Driving Posture

If you want to learn more about the anatomy of the spine or back, please watch this video.

Correct Car Seat Position

  • Seated Cushion Length: The back of your knees should be about 1-2 inches from the front of the seat cushion.
  • Seat Forward Position: Move your seat forward until there is a slight bend in your knees and you can easily push the pedals with the whole foot.
  • Seated Cushion Angle: Tilt the seat cushion until your thighs have full support but without pressure at the back of the knees.
  • Seated Back Rest: Should support the complete length of the back while sitting upright. This should be slightly reclined at about 110 angle.
  • Lumbar Support: Should be adjusted to allow even pressure along your back. There should be no gaps or pressure points in the back area.
  • Steering Wheel: The steering wheel should be adjusted for both height and tilt so it is about 10-12 inches from your chest and both your elbows are slightly bent.
  • Headrest: The top of headrest should be even with the top of your head. The angle of the headrest should be just touching the back of your head with correct sitting posture.

Most modern cars have the seat and steering wheel functions to allow these adjustments. So pay attention to your driving posture and make it a good back day.  For more information about the JOI Rehab Fast Track Program, read this article.

Take Frequent Breaks for Back Pain While Driving

If you are on a long drive, it is so important to take frequent breaks to relieve back pain.  We recommend taking a break every two hours as needed.  During your break, it is important to get out of the car walk and do some stretches.  You can always put an ice pack in a cooler and ice your back during the trip as well.

single knee to chest stretch

Single knee to chest stretch

Related Articles: Lumbar spinal stenosis exercises

Book an Appointment with The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute Today!

JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.

You can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.  You can now schedule and cancel follow up appointments with your JOI Physician on the JOI Patient Portal. 

To make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.

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