For many, driving can trigger back pain, especially when driving long distances. I know that this can make driving an unpleasant, or even unbearable, experience, so I've compiled a list of tips to help make your next journey pain-free.
Do you experience back pain while driving? This is a fairly common complaint regardless of if you regularly suffer from back pain or not. It is particularly common in people who drive longer distances to work (over half an hour) or people who drive as part of their jobs such as postal workers, delivery drivers or lorry drivers. It can make driving long distances, well, a pain in the back.
To help you out, I've compiled a list of tips to reduce back pain when driving.
11 tips to reduce back pain while driving
Here are my 11 tips to alleviate back pain while driving:
Get comfortable before you start the journey. Many of today’s tips are best employed at the beginning of the journey, as a small irritation can quickly grow to unbearable pain. Take a few moments to settle into a comfortable posture, check your mirrors and adjust the seat – this is particularly important if you share your car as these things may have been changed by another driver.
Make sure your mirrors are adjusted so you do not have to move or twist to see them. Generally, you should only have to move your eyes to be able to see out of your mirrors. If you adjust your mirrors while sitting up straight, then if you begin to slouch you’ll lose vision in the mirrors, which will act as a reminder to sit up
Adjust the seat so you are almost sitting straight with only a slight recline – most people recommend a 100 degree angle. If you recline it too far your head will not be able to comfortably rest against the head rest which can cause tension in the neck and upper back
Roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back for additional support, as car seats often do not support the natural curve of your back
Don’t keep a phone or wallet in your back pocket as this can slightly misalign your spine. It may not seem noticeable or significant at first, but over time it can cause or worsen back pain while driving
Stop regularly (around every hour) to move around and stretch. Try some gentle twists, or reach down to touch your toes. To stretch your lower back, bend your knees a little while reaching for the ground, and aim to touch your knees with your chest. To relieve neck and shoulder pain, try shrugging and rolling your shoulders and rolling your neck from side to side
Back pain while driving can often be caused by the vibration of the car, or the jolting and bouncing of the car as it goes over bumps. To reduce this, use a cushion specially designed for car seats which will act as a shock absorber. Keeping your car in good condition, in particular its shock absorbers and tyres, will also give you a smoother, more comfortable drive
Take a cold pack or heat pack with you, depending on which one is best for your back pain. A cold pack could simply be an ice pack wrapped in a towel, or you could buy an instant ice pack from your pharmacy or heath store which can be kept in the car until you need them. Some heat packs can be plugged into the cigarette socket in your car to provide constant heat. Alternatively, if your car has heated seats, use these to keep your muscles warm during the journey
If your car has cruise control, use this when you can. While using this, place your feet on the floor so your legs form a 90 degree angle and gently push them down into the floor. This will help naturally support your spine
Use a herbal remedy to soothe your back pain. We recommend Atrogel, an arnica gel designed for muscle aches and pains. Just rub a little on the affected area for relief from back pain for the duration of your journey. For long term back pain, try Devil's Claw which, when taken every day, helps reduce back pain, muscle ache and joint pain
Add regular exercise into your lifestyle to strengthen your back muscles and release tension. Cardio exercises like running or swimming are great for overall fitness, and weights are great for improving muscle strength. You can also try these exercises for back pain to specifically target problem areas.
For more information on back pain, such as causes and treatments, head over to A.Vogel Talks Back Pain, where you’ll also find blog posts and my Q&A service.