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Is Driving Becoming A Pain? 5 Top Tips To Help Alleviate Back Pain Whilst Driving

Back Pain Driving

Driving is something most of us need to do, whether it to get us to and from work, you may be the family taxi, you may drive as part of your job or you may have a long drive coming up to go see family or go on holiday and are dreading it due to your back hurting. If driving is part of your daily routine you most likely have experienced back pain at some point.

We see lots of people here at the clinic who spend at least 30 minutes a day in the car who are struggling to get in and out of the car and have pain or discomfort whilst driving.

Want to know why driving can trigger back pain? Well there are a few reasons. First of all, no roads in the UK are smooth. We all know this, bumps cause jerking movements of your back and especially if you back is a little bit niggly one bump too many and pain and spasm can occur. Just think if you are a taxi driver or heavy goods vehicle driver you are in the cab or lorry for hours on end, so your body is constantly faced with vibrations, bumps, jerking movements.

Speeding up and slowing down all have an effect on your spine especially if you have to increase or decrease speed quickly. We’ve all seen the crash test dummy videos and how sudden forces force our bodies in to positions of risk of injury.

When driving our feet on the pedals means we are less stable than when we are sitting on a chair with our feet on the floor. Feet on the pedals makes our muscle systems have to work harder to keep us in a good position. Have a poor core for example and your spine is subject to loads it cannot control and pain will strike.

Apart from the actual act of driving let’s think about car seats and their position. It’s all well and good if you have a driving seat that you can fit to your body but so many car seats are so badly designed they often can make matters worse.

For those of you that read my blogs regularly you will know I have a long term back problem that I manage with physio and exercise. In years gone by I have been in agony in the car not being able to take the hand brake on and off without my back going in to spasm, not being able to sit in the same driving position for longer than 20-30 mins and at my worst getting in and out of the car was agony! I had to go in my dad’s 4x4 as I couldn’t get in a normal car.

As I’ve been that person who begins to dread getting in the car because of back pain I’ve decided to put together my top tips to help you travel in a bit more comfort.

"All of these I’ve done myself and found they helped!"

1. Make sure you are comfortable as possible before you start your journey

Adjust the seat height so your hips are in line with or slightly higher than your knees is a good position, back support position to not be too upright or too far back, inflate the lumbar area if you have one. I’ve even used a rolled up towel in my low back to create a lumbar roll when driving as my car seat lumbar support did not fit in to where my lumbar arch is.

If you are in a flare up I also found wearing a neoprene lumbar support helpful as it gave me compression around my spine helping out my muscles that were not happy to work properly at that time but do not do this long term as it will only make your supporting muscles weaker and give you more pain in the long run.

2. Change your seat position little and often

I found that after 30 minutes my back would start to ache, so I moved my back rest either more upright if I had had it reclined or vice versa if the seat back was very upright. I also have found moving the seat either closer or further away from the pedals helps to allow subtle changes of driving position and always gave me relief.

3. Take regular breaks

Now like anyone I want to get to my destination as soon as possible. If you are going on a long journey you will need to take breaks. This allows you to get out of the car and have a walk around. Moving your spine and other joints from the seated position and get blood flowing to your muscles, especially your buttocks as let’s face it they are being constantly squashed when sitting poor things is what you need to do.

4. Use that cruise control

If you have cruise control, please use it. By allowing your feet to go flat on the floor you firstly give your spine some stability but also if you gently push your feet in to the floor of the car you will work your calf, hamstring and buttock muscles which are all important to work properly if you have back pain. Imagine you have an orange under each foot and you want to gently squash it. Hold this position for 5 seconds and do 5-10 times every 1-2 hours.

5. Got heated seats?

Again, this is one I’ve made use of. If your back is sore, stiff or tight and you have seated seats then use them. Especially if the back of the seat heats up. Muscles like to be warm to relax. If you don’t have heated seats invest in a heat pad and use a power converter to plug it in to your cigarette lighter and turn it on when needed.

If you back pain is bad or getting gradually worse you can always give my physio clinic a call, we’re happy to answer any questions you have to help you live with less pain, even if you are not one of our clients please give us a call on 01702 613542 and we will be happy to see how we can help.

For more information and tips about natural ways to live with less back pain – go to my website where you can get a free copy of my back tips guide that we give to clients at WDC Physiotherapy: www.wdcphysio.wpenginepowered.com/back-pain

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– by lead Physiotherapist Wendy McCloud



Wendy founded WDC in September 2006. She has worked in both the public and private sectors. Within the NHS, Wendy worked as a Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and an Extended Scope Practitioner Physiotherapist as part of an Orthopaedic Consultant’s team specialising in Shoulder Pain. Wendy has treated royalty for Shoulder pain through referrals from her close links with a top Orthopaedic Shoulder Surgeon. More recently, Wendy has been the sole choice physiotherapist for all Essex-based referrals from London Shoulder surgeon Mr Matthew Sala. Wendy also worked within the national rugby union as the head physiotherapist for Southend Rugby Football Club. She led the medical service at the club for 11 years, working with players who achieved county honours and representative honours for various countries such as England, Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand.
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