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With the lifestyle of many people today consisting of merely sitting and lounging around all day, there’s no wonder that there are a lot of complaints about experiencing back pain. In the past, back pain was a problem that only plagued older folk. Now, even young professionals have to deal with its negative effects. An unbalanced diet, improper posture, and a lack of exercise don’t help with this either. In a perfect world, we can keep up a healthy lifestyle, but it’s hard to do so these days. Such is the case with those who clicked on this article.

Aside from when you’re sitting at your desk at work, there’s no other situation where back pain pops up more than when you’re sitting in a vehicle that’s stuck in traffic. We all hate that feeling and there’s no denying it. You’ll feel this whether you’re the driver or the passenger. You may think that there’s no getting around it and you just need to suck it up. However, if you have pain in your back when you sit in a car, especially in the lower part, here are a couple of tips to reduce the discomfort you feel.

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Careful male driver looking into the mirror

Wear Something Comfortable

The first couple of tips you can follow to alleviate your driving-related back pain involves things you can do before you even get into a car. First and foremost, put some thought into what you’re going to wear, especially if you’re the one who’s going to be driving. Remember, you don’t need to make a fashion statement in your car. Who’s going to see it anyway – your passengers? What if you didn’t have any to start off with? If you plan to rock your best outfit, your best bet will be to drive in something more comfortable first, then change afterwards.

On that note, here are some of the pieces of clothing you need to avoid wearing on long drives. Skinny jeans are common culprits in causing discomfort on lengthy trips. They cut off circulation in key areas and may even bunch up in others, which causes tiny irritations that could evolve into full-blown pain and discomfort. An alternative to these would be baggy or straight cut jeans with stretch that you can more freely move around in. Shorts are also a great option, especially if you’ll be going to a place with a more casual dress code.

Although it may seem like such a small detail, you should also pay attention to what kind of underwear you’ll be wearing on a road trip. Like with your bottoms, wear something that has a little bit of stretch. For women, putting on a thicker sports bra instead of your regular underwear could also help make you more comfortable on a drive. Bringing extra garments is also a good idea, especially in humid weather. It would also be advisable to bring a change of clothes since you can never truly tell if you’ll be comfortable in what you’re wearing.

Stretch it Out

Another thing you should do before a lengthy trip is do a couple of stretches. Similar to how you want to prepare your muscles before a heavy bout of exercise with a couple of stretches to the areas you’ll target, do some stretches to your arms and legs before a drive. More importantly, stretch out your lower back. You could hold yoga poses such as a child’s pose or the cobra stretch, or you could choose to dynamic stretches. Just a couple minutes of these before hopping into your car can be a big help in reducing your back pain.

Use Lumbar and Foot Supports

Now it’s time to get into your car. The first thing you can do to help alleviate the discomfort on your back while sitting down is to use a lumbar support device. You can buy products specifically made to reduce discomfort while driving. These cost a pretty penny, but have been tried and tested multiple times, so you know exactly what you’re getting. If you don’t have the budget to get your hands on one of these, you can also try something as simple as rolling up a towel or getting a pillow, and placing it at your lower back near where your belt is.

Aside from using a lumbar support device, you may also want to consider using a platform to support your feet. Placing your lower extremities on a flat and firm surface can actually help relieve some of the pressure that you’re feeling on the lower part of your back. Position your knees at an angle that’s as close to 90º as you can get it. If your vehicle has cruise control, take advantage of it. Just make sure that it’s safe to do so. Letting your car cruise, even for just a minute, will let you rest both feet and transfer stress from your lower back.

Hold Your Steering Wheel Properly

It’s not only your back and feet that you can adjust to relieve the pressure you feel in your back while on a drive. Experts have found that adjusting the way you hold your steering wheel could also help. We were taught that the best way to hold the steering wheel is with our left hand at 10 o’ clock and our right hand at 2 o’ clock. However, this is quite outdated, especially with airbags now being in a lot of cars these days. The better way to hold your steering wheel is by placing your left and right hands at 9 o’ clock and 3 ‘ clock respectively. This lets you comfortably rest your elbows on the car’s armrests, which in turn lessens the pressure on your upper back.

Man driving car

Fix Your Seat

The next thing you can do is to adjust your seat. We recommend moving your seat forward as close to the steering wheel as possible. Driving with your seat too far back can put you in a rather awkward stance trying to reach a steering wheel that’s too far away. However, you shouldn’t sacrifice control of your steering wheel for being a little bit more comfortable. If your knees get in the way of your steering wheel, it may be hard to control your car. It may even cause some discomfort in your legs every time they come into contact with the device.

You should also consider the angle of your seat. Contrary to what many people may believe, a 90-degree sitting position is not always the best. Sitting at this angle is actually unnatural, and could be the major cause of your back pains while driving. Instead of sitting at exactly a right angle, try adjusting your seat so it’s angled somewhere between 100º and 110º. This replicates the natural sitting position for most people, so chances are sitting like this will help lessen the discomfort you feel in your back as you maneuver through busy highways. Similar to putting your seat too far back, reclining too much will put unneeded strain on your neck and back.

The Smallest Adjustments Help

The smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference with your back pain. For instance, not a lot of people know that you can actually move your steering wheel up or down. Getting your steering wheel in the right spot relieves stress on the shoulders and on the upper back. Another minute adaptation you can make is moving your headrest up or down. Getting this right helps reduce the pain you feel on your shoulders and lower back as well. The middle of the headrest should meet the middle part of the back of your head.

You can also try adjusting your side mirrors so you don’t have to twist too much to the left or right in order to see them. By the same token, you can also move your rearview mirror so you don’t have to angle your head up too much that it causes strain. Remember though, that you shouldn’t move your mirrors too much to the point that it’ll obstruct your view of the traffic that’s behind you. Always put your safety and that of your passengers first before anything else. After that, you can start thinking about comfort and other things.

Don’t Put Anything in Your Pockets

Avoid putting your phone or your wallet in your back pockets as well. Not only does this put pressure on your lower back, it also causes your spine to lose its alignment over time. You should take note of this, especially if you already have a condition that affects your spine such as scoliosis. Having things in your pockets while you drive could also cut off the circulation to important areas such as your legs, which could potentially impair your ability to effectively move through and step on your car’s pedals as the drive goes on.

Take a Breather

Take a break once in a while if you can. On long drives, you should stop somewhere and take a break every hour. If you feel a bit of pain and discomfort beginning to kick in, take this time to adjust whatever it is that needs adjusting. Maybe your mirrors are out of position – use this break to fix that. Your seat is positioned at a weird angle? Use these few minutes to fix that as well. Some other things you can do while on a stop to help you relieve your back pain include switching out your lumbar support and doing a couple of stretches.

If you plan to take breaks on a drive, schedule accordingly. Leave a couple of minutes earlier to have some time for these breaks. You wouldn’t want these pit stops to be the reason you’re running late. Take traffic into consideration as well, especially if you know that you’re going to be passing through a busy highway or a patch of construction work. There have been cases where stopping for just a couple of minutes has caused someone to be a lot later than they expected. You can’t control traffic, so if you don’t have a large enough window for a stop, think things through a couple of times first.

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Man driving car and using smart phone

Switch Up the Temperatures

If after taking all of the steps above and you’re still experiencing a bit back pain while riding a car, you could also try playing with temperatures. What we mean by this is using either a seat warmer or an ice pack. A lot of people swear by putting a little heat on their lower back to lessen the pain they feel in that area. There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to heating up your back. You could go for a heating pad that’s powered by plugging it into your car’s lighter or USB port. There are also ones you can microwave before leaving home.

On the other hand, you could also put something cold on your back to relieve it. This helps reduce the inflammation caused by sitting in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time. This also helps numb the painful tissues in your back. If you want to do this, your best option would be to buy a couple of reusable ice packs and keep them in a cooler in your car. Just remember to put something between your skin and the cold pack to prevent ice burn. Wrapping the ice pack in a face towel will do the trick just fine.

Distract Yourself

Finally, you can simply resort to distracting yourself to make the pain go away. A couple things you can do to diver your attention away from your back pain while driving is to listen to some of your favorite songs. More often than not, rocking out with artists that you’re a fan of can make you forget that your back is feeling quite bad. Similarly, you can play a game with your passengers to possibly make you forget about your aching back. For example, you can play “I Spy.” Just don’t let these fully distract you from the task at hand – to drive safely.

If you follow these tips, we’re certain that the pain you feel in your back will significantly lessen. While using any one of these will help, it would be better if you use a combination, if not all, of them.

Sources:

  1. Protecting Your Back in the Car – HowStuffWorks
  2. How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car – YourMechanic

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