According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), drivers in the United States spend an average of 17,600 minutes a year behind the wheel. That's over 293 hours sitting while driving your vehicle!
If you spend long days on the road for work or have an upcoming road trip planned, passing hours seated on your car's bucket or bench seat, with the pedal to the metal, can render you immobile with stiff, aching legs and back, neck and shoulder pain. Learn to practice ideal driving posture so you can enjoy your destination once you finally reach it.
Drive This Way, Not That
Talk of ergonomics in the office has proper desk posture on our minds, but a lot of us spend as much or more time sitting in our cars than we do at our desks. Knowing the healthy way to sit while driving and what postures to avoid is essential for day-long drives or your minutes-long commute to the office.
Poor Driving Posture
The lower back curves the wrong direction without proper lumbar support, and legs have to stretch for feet to reach the pedals. This unnatural curve causes forward head posture, rounded shoulders and anterior pelvic tilt – all posture problems which lead to pain, stiffness and improper circulation.
Ideal Driving Positions
- Lumbar Support- Seats in cars usually do not have adequate lumbar (lower back) support. Add a cushion or roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back to encourage proper spinal alignment.
- Seat Height - Adjust the seat height so your hips rest at the same height as your knees. If, at your seat's highest position, you are still too low, use a seat cushion or wedge. (Cushions reduce impact from bumpy roads, too!)
- Pedal Distance- Legs should not have to be fully extended to reach pedals. When at the pedals, knees should bend at 20 to 30 degrees.
- Elbows- Elbows should bend at obtuse angles (about 120 degrees).
- Move- Make slight adjustments to hand and back rest positions every 20 minutes to increase circulation.
Four Stretches to Prevent and Relieve Pain from Driving
- Shoulder Roll- Move shoulders in a circular motion forwards and then backwards. Consciously relax neck muscles during the movement.
- Neck Roll- Tip head right, left and forward. Do not tip back, as this can cause your muscles to tighten.
- Torso Twist- While sitting upright, twist your body until you feel a stretch in your back and/or abdomen.
- Figure Four- Lean against your car for support. Stand on one leg, while resting the opposite foot above the standing leg's knee, creating a "figure four." Press the resting leg's knee down until you feel a stretch in your hip. Repeat on opposite leg.
These stretches will help relax muscles in your back, abdomen, neck, shoulders and legs which commonly become tense and painful during long drives. You can also use cold packs or small pillows to create additional lumbar support during a long drive.
Taking a few minutes to stretch during each of your pit stops, periodically remembering to adjust your seat and sitting with ideal driving posture will leave you feeling loose, limber and ready to limbo (or whatever you have planned) once you reach your destination.