8 Tips to Prevent Back Pain While Driving

8 Tips to Prevent Back Pain While Driving

Driving can create excessive stress on your neck and back. Over time, this stress can significantly increase back and neck pain, as well the risk of injuries. Taking the time to correct your driving posture can reduce your risk of injury and make your driving experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

The first step to proper posture while driving is to use a car that you fit into properly. Tall drivers usually do not fit into compact cars. Some cars do not have seats that can adjust properly for your body. There are many things to consider when choosing a car. The ability to drive the car comfortably and safely should be one of those concerns.

A good word of warning is to always remember that safety should always come first. You should never make an adjustment for posture that would hinder your ability to see the road, your mirrors or instrument panel.

How to Prevent Back Pain While Behind the Wheel


  1. Use lumbar support. If your seat has adjustable lumbar support, adjust it so you have even support along your back. You should use a lumbar cushion if your car does not have sufficient lumbar support. It can be something simple, like a rolled-up towel or a cushion specifically designed for support. It’s important that it’s properly placed at the small of the back, at about belt level.


  1. Move your seat forward. It is recommended to get as close to the steering wheel as you can without becoming uncomfortable. Being close to the steering wheel prevents you from slouching, and also keeps you from straining to reach the pedals. Note: your knees should not be higher than your hips.


  1. Properly set seat angle. The seat back should be reclined at a 100- to 110-degree angle. This angle decreases pressure on the lower back. Adjust your headrest so the middle of your head rests comfortably against it.


  1. Activate cruise control. If your car has cruise control, use it as long as it’s safe to do so. This allows you to put both feet on the floor for short periods and distribute your weight more evenly.


  1. Stop and stretch. Stop as often as you can, preferably every half hour or so, to get out of the car and stretch.


  1. Use an ice pack. If you still have back pain while driving, stop for a stretch and put an ice pack against your back when you’re sitting. Ice packs help relieve back pain by numbing the area and reducing inflammation. There are disposable/portable ice and heat packs available for purchase, so if you have a few on hand, you can alternate heat and cold every 20 minutes or so.


  1. Rethink your steering wheel grip position. In the past, many new drivers were taught to hold their steering wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions. But, with the advent of airbags, research has found that your hands should be at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Also, researchers have determined that having your hands at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions allows you to rest your elbows on the armrests, which can help ease pain, especially in the upper back.


  1. Heat your seat. If your car is equipped with heated seats, turn it on if you experience back pain. Heat can help with relieve pain by relaxing tight joints and muscles, decreasing the transmission of pain signals to the brain, and bringing more blood to the area (the flow of oxygen and nutrients that can help heal potentially damaged tissue). If your car doesn’t have heated seats, many stores sell heated seat covers that can be placed on the driver’s seat.


Additional things to remember:

  • While driving, shift your position slightly from time to time. This gives stressed areas of your body moments to rest.
  • Do not reach for items on the back seat or seat back pockets while in the front. It is very easy to injure yourself when twisting to get things. If you need something from the back, stop and get out of the car.
  • When you stop the car and need to get something out of the trunk, give your body a few minutes outside of the car to adjust before doing so.
  • When getting into the car sit first and then swing your legs into the car without twisting at your back.
  • When getting out of the car, slide your legs out first (again, without twisting your back) and then stand up.





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