Many of you I am sure have never thought about it. You just blame your back pain when driving from sitting too long or from other factors. Well I’d like to give you some tips and encourage you all to pay attention to your posture the next time you drive.
Normal driving posture should allow you to sit with your knees at the level of your hips, never above or below your hips or else this will put increased strain on the lower back or hips. Make sure you are able to sit on your sitting bones with a neutral spine. So, when you are sitting in a chair, I want you to switch between sitting up tall by arching your lower back and then by slouching and rounding your back. Now find the middle between the two where you feel most of the pressure being put on your sitting bones. To help with this you want to adjust the back of the seat to make sure you are able to sit up straight. You can also put a towel roll in the small of your back to provide support to your sacrum during sitting. This will take a lot of stress off of the lower back.
You want your seat to be close enough that you are able to rest your heels on the floor with the ball of your foot resting on the pedal. Your knees should be slightly bent by about 30 degrees. When shifting to the brake you should use a pivot motion at the ankle versus moving your entire hip to change pedals. Your non driving foot should be resting on the foot rest out in front of you in line with the foot on the pedal. If you drive a manual, you’re already doing this with the clutch. All of this will decrease strain on the feet, knees, hips and lower back.
Your upper body should allow your arms to rest comfortably at a 90-degree angle by your side. Lower the steering wheel so you can hold the bottom of the steering wheel with palms facing up at the bottom. This will decrease strain on the neck and shoulders while driving.
Some simple exercises you can do while driving are called scapular retractions where you try to pinch your shoulder blades together. Hold 5 seconds and then release. Make sure you are not activating your upper trap in your shoulders by shrugging! You can do anterior and posterior pelvic tilts like I mentioned earlier in this post. While sitting, think about arching your lower back and then rounding your lower back to stretch the lower back. Do this about 10-15 times. If you have to drive long distances, ideally if you can get up and walk around every hour this will help prevent tension and stress on your body while driving.
At a stop light you can also do a few neck stretches with tilting your ear to your shoulder. Hold 20-30 seconds. Another stretch you can do for your neck is to sit up tall and look down with the head just to stretch some of these muscles as well. Only do this when stopped!!!!! Do not attempt while driving.
Now that you have learned the correct position your body should be in, go take a look at how your body position is in your drivers’ seat. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact one of the physical therapists here at Breakaway Physical Therapy for more education or assistance.