Driving can aggravate pain in your lower back or be a contributing cause of chronic back pain. Driving for extended periods of time can put a lot of stress on the spine, as the normal lumbar curvature is easily disturbed by the typical driving position. Subluxations (spinal misalignments) can occur due to this stress leading to dysfunction. Add to that the bumping and jostling from traveling over uneven road surfaces and speed bumps and you’ve got a recipe for back pain.
Following are some chiropractor recommended tips to help you adjust your driver’s seat to the optimal placement for driving.
- Position yourself properly in the seat – To do this, ensure that you are sitting as far back in the seat as possible, so that your buttocks are almost wedged between the seat and the seat back.
- Adjust the distance between the seat and steering wheel – Move the seat forward so you can fully depress both the brake and clutch, while still keeping your knees slightly bent. Your leg should ideally maintain an angle of approximately 120 degrees. If your leg is either straight or at a 90-degree angle, your seat needs to be moved either closer or further back.
- Adjust the tilt of the seat – Tilt your seat forwards or backwards until you feel that your leg from hip to knee is fully supported while having your foot on the gas pedal, without feeling that the seat is pressing uncomfortably into the back of the leg.
- Adjust the back of the seat – Your seat should be at an angle that fully supports the length of your back. It should not be reclined too far, as this can cause you to have to bend your head and neck forward at an angle in order to see the road.
- Move the steering wheel – You should move the steering wheel toward you until it is close enough for your hands to reach the 10 and 2 position, while keeping your arms slightly bent. Having it too close can be dangerous in an accident, but you also don’t want it so far away that you are straining to reach it. It should be tilted at an angle so your hands are just a little lower than your shoulders.
- Adjust the head restraint – The bottom of the head restraint should be level with the base of your skull and should be about an inch from your head while driving, in order to avoid whiplash in case of an accident.
- If your car has a lumbar support feature, adjust it so it supports the lumbar area without pressing into your back. If you don’t have this feature, one or two rolled towels can be used to support the lumbar area.
Try to be sure your knee does not drop to the side while you drive, as this can cause some aggravation to the nerves in the lower back, which can lead to pain in the hip, knee and foot. Pull the knee in to keep it in line with your body.
Many of these adjustments only need to be made once if you are the primary driver of the car. Your back and neck will thank you.