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How to Combat Back Pain While Driving

Oct 6, 2022

Combat Back Pain While DrivingDo you have a long drive ahead? Perhaps you are planning a road trip to visit family or friends for the holidays. Or perhaps your commute to work takes a lot longer than you would like. No matter what keeps you in the car for a long period of time, it can end up leaving you feeling stiff and sore. Everyone knows that feeling when you finally do get out of the car and get to stretch your arms to the sky and shake out the stiffness. You might feel the tension in your shoulders and upper back, or perhaps your lower back starts to get uncomfortable. But did you know that stiffness and back pain doesn’t have to happen to you? Learn more about how to avoid the potential for chronic back pain after a long drive with these helpful tips.

Why Driving Can Lead to Chronic Back Pain

Whenever we stay in one posture for a long period of time, it can end up causing pain and discomfort. Just like standing on your feet all day, sitting at a desk or in a car for a prolonged amount of time can affect your posture, put pressure on your spine, and cause your back muscles to tense and stiffen. Our bodies are designed to move, so sitting still for an extended period of time can lead to back pain and discomfort. Sometimes, as a passenger, you may have more space and flexibility to shift your position and find different ways to get comfortable. But if you’re the driver, you are stuck in pretty much the same position for the trip ahead. The vibrations from the vehicle itself can also increase your risk for back pain, especially for people in occupational driving or in old cars with poor suspension. Whenever you know you are about to spend a long time in the car, there are steps you can take to prevent back pain while on the road.

10 Tips for Combatting Back Pain While Driving

Tips for Combatting Back Pain While DrivingWhether you and the family are heading out on a road trip, you have a long solo drive ahead, or you simply struggle with back pain during your daily commute, here are ten tips for how you can combat back pain while driving.

Stretch Before Your Trip

One of the best things you can do before getting behind the wheel is to take a moment to stretch. We typically think of stretching after a long drive, but actually taking the time to stretch beforehand can help you ward off back pain caused while driving. When you stretch your muscles before a long period of sitting in the same posture, it helps loosen your muscles and relieve any built-up tension before you get on the road. Stretching also improves healthy circulation so your body gets a healthy amount of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to nourish those muscles and joints.

Adjust Your Seat Position

The way you sit in the car can also impact how likely you are to end up experiencing back pain. As the driver, you can adjust your seat position within reason. This can include moving your seat forward, closer to the steering wheel, which can prompt you to sit up straight. Sitting forward also helps prevent you from slouching and allows your arms to rest at a more natural angle. When your arms aren’t extended too far out in front of you, it takes some pressure and strain off your shoulders and upper back. You can also angle and raise your seat so that your hips are in line with your knees.

Plan for Breaks

When you map out your trip, make sure you include plenty of time for breaks. You can even plan ahead and pick out particular spots to explore along the way. You can build in bathroom breaks and stop for meals to give yourself and other passengers a chance to get out and stretch their legs. If you have little ones along for the ride, check out nearby public parks with playgrounds to let the kids expend some energy while you stretch and stand up for a bit before the next leg of the journey.

Practice Good Posture

Practicing good posture is a huge part of combating back pain while driving. There are two ways you can have bad posture while driving: sitting too relaxed and sitting too far forward. Extending your head and neck forward and tensing your arms and hands on the steering wheel can cause you to engage all the muscles in your upper body and create tension and stress. Drivers who recline the seat and sit far back in a more relaxed position might seem more comfortable, but this can actually end up straining your back muscles. Try to find a happy medium that works for you, where you can sit up straight with your chin in line with your shoulders and your back comfortably supported.

Consider Your Foot Position

Believe it or not, how your feet are positioned while you drive can also impact your back and lead to discomfort in your upper body. When seated behind the wheel, you should never have to stretch your right foot out in order to reach the pedal. Instead, adjust your seat so that you can comfortably reach the pedal with your right leg naturally bent. You also want your other foot planted firmly on the ground, which helps take the pressure off your back from supporting your whole body.

Turn Up the Heat

Do you have seat warmers in your car? If so, you can turn those on during a long drive to help loosen the muscles in your back. It is natural for your muscles to tense up over time when you aren’t moving around a lot. Applying heat to stiff, tight muscles helps them relax naturally. If you don’t have seat warmers, then consider the temperature inside the vehicle. If it’s too cold, you might be more likely to tense up and hunch over, even if you don’t realize it. Maintain a comfortable temperature that works for everyone in the vehicle.

Use a Lumbar Support Pillow

A lumbar support pillow can help cushion your back, especially on a long drive. Lumbar support pillows are designed to protect your lumbar spine, which is in your lower back. These types of supports can be made of memory foam and offer ergonomic pressure relief while you sit. You might even want one of these if you sit at a desk for long periods of time, too. A lumbar support pillow will help you maintain a healthy posture while you drive and can even help relieve lower back and hip pain. Other supports you might consider for a road trip include a warm towel rolled up to place at your lower back or a heating pad that plugs into one of the outlets in your car.

Refuel Your Car and Your Body

You will inevitably need to stop for gas and refuel, which is a perfect time to remember that your body needs refueling too. When you are trying to combat back pain and discomfort during a long drive, focusing on eating healthy and staying hydrated goes a long way. Your body also needs fuel to function at its best, which includes key nutrients that can even help you fight muscle cramps and keep you feeling fresh. In fact, some foods can even cause inflammation that can result in back pain, which is the opposite of what you want to happen while on the road for a long trip.

Stretch After Your Trip

Once you arrive at your destination, don’t forget to get in a good stretch! Take a moment to walk around, stretch your legs, and reach your arms high. You may also want to twist your upper body from side to side to help loosen up back muscles that have become stiff with disuse. Even a simple stretch like bending forward and touching your toes can provide a nice stretch in your back that loosen up your back and provide instant pain relief.

Meet with a Chiropractor

Lastly, another great way to combat back pain while driving is to put time and energy into treating your body well. That can include meeting regularly with your chiropractor to ensure you are functioning at your best. A chiropractor can help resolve misalignments in your spine that may contribute to poor posture and back pain. Chiropractic adjustments to your spine and joints help them do their jobs better so your back can have an easier time on the road. Your chiropractor can also help you manage any chronic back pain you are dealing with and offer recommendations on stretches and nutrition for your overall health and well-being.

How a Chiropractor Can Help Prevent Back Pain

Chiropractor Can Help Prevent Back PainVisit a College Park chiropractor near you at AICA Orthopedics. Our teamof doctors includes chiropractors and back pain specialists who offer comprehensive and personalized treatment. We will work with you to address your specific goals and provide you with effective solutions for managing, relieving, and preventing back pain while driving.


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