Last week, we discussed the stresses that driving can place on the musculoskeletal system. In fact, studies have been conducted, particularly with bus and truck drivers, that show a higher risk of developing MSK conditions associated with these occupations. Vehicle vibrations, bumpy roads and sitting in a constrained position with improper lumbar support may contribute to neck, shoulder and back pain.
If your work depends on driving for long periods of time, or even a lengthy commute to work, there are a few things you can do to help minimize your risk of developing an MSK condition and associated pain. A key factor is how you sit while driving. By keeping your spine relaxed and neutral while avoiding excessive twisting and reaching, you can avoid awkward postures that may lead to injury. Our tips below will help you adjust your driving posture to minimize risks!
1. Loosen Your Grip
You’ve probably been told that it’s safest to keep two hands on the wheel. This is true for road safety, but it’s also helpful for your MSK health to keep your torso from twisting. Make sure to keep your hands relaxed on the wheel. If you’re a white-knuckle driver, this tight grip decreases circulation and increases muscle tension. Change your hand position frequently.
Do your shoulders ache when you are behind the wheel? If you experience shoulder pain, neck strain, leg cramps or an ache in your side, make sure you aren’t tense and leaning forward towards the steering wheel.
3. Don’t Slouch
Leaning way back in the driver’s seat with an arm out the window might look comfortable, but it can actually cause lumbar pain and side aches. The driver’s seat should lean back just a little (100-110 degrees) to reduce pressure on your back.
4. Adjust Your Seat
Most new cars are equipped with adjustable seats. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. Sit comfortably with your back relaxed and supported. Reclining your seat slightly opens your hip angle. It has been suggested that this position can also help decrease the pressure placed on your discs.
5. Adjust the Steering Wheel
Most steering wheels have a tilt feature that allows you to move the wheel up and down. Tilt the wheel so that you can reach it easily with your elbows bent at your sides. The steering wheel should also sit at about 25-30 cm from your breastbone.
No matter what type of activity you’re engaging in, it’s important to be aware of your posture. Check out these other posture resources to learn more! Your chiropractor can also provide you with some ergonomic tips.
Have you tried Straighten Up Canada, the free posture app from Canada’s chiropractors? It’s simple, easy and free – your back will thank you.