How To Adjust Your Car Seat To Help With Your Back Pain

Chronic back pain is a common cause of frequent hospital visits and doctor consultations. In America alone, a survey reveals that 39% of adults experience lower back and neck problems. This uncomfortable and debilitating condition can greatly hinder one’s movement and affect their daily activities. Now imagine sitting in traffic for long hours while having to endure aching back pain - a difficult situation for almost anyone.

So how can you position your car seat to relieve back pain? The ideal driving posture is one where your spine rests flat against the chair and the seat height is tall enough to not crouch forward to see the road. It is wise to get a lumbar support or seat cushion for your spine. This helps to lower muscle stiffness and back pain.

Factors To Consider For The Ideal Driving Posture   

Here are some tips on how you can best adjust your driver’s seat: 

1. Seat height should be as high as your knees 

The first step is to change the height of your seat. Ideally, you want to make sure that your seat height is not too low where you have to force your head to look up or prop up your body using the knees to see the road. It should also not be too high where you have to bend down or slouch. 

The car seat should be in a position where the back of your thighs is lightly touching the edge. There should be a gap of at least two fingers between the back of your knees and the seat. This will help ensure that there proper circulation as well as  avoid leg and back pain while driving. 

2. Recline your seat to a comfortable position 

While sitting straight is beneficial for your back, holding the position for too long may cause discomfort to some drivers. A good support for the lower back while driving would be positioning the seat at a slight recline. You can adjust the inclination of the back seat to a 100 to 110 degree angle. This seat angle is enough to take the pressure off your lower spine.

You can also adjust the horizontal position of your car seat. It is ideal to ensure that your seat isn’t positioned too far from the steering wheel. As much as possible, slide your seat forward to ease any unnecessary strain on your thighs, hamstrings, and pelvi. This also allows you to avoid extending your arms and comfortably rest your hands on the steering wheel. 

3. Find the right position for your steering wheel grip 

Avoid having your arms fully stretched from your body to the steering wheel. You should maintain at least a 120-degree bend of the elbows with your wrists lightly sitting over the edge of the wheel. You should also feel the back of your shoulder blades pressing comfortably against the seat.

In addition, you should have a light and gentle hold on the wheel while keeping the hands placed at 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Place your head in the middle of the headrest 

Most cars today come with adjustable headrests on the seat. They help to reduce the backward motion of the head and avoid neck injuries in cases of car accidents or crashes. To complete the proper driving position, you should also modify the height of the headrest. 

The ideal position should allow you to easily rest your head on the middle part of the head cushion. Your head should also be aligned in a neutral vertical position, with the earlobes parallel to your collarbones and neck muscles.   

4. Get lumbar support or foam cushion for the lower back 

While some cars already offer seat support for the lower back, you can still buy additional car seat accessories such as a back cushion or lumbar support. When you sit back straight, you will notice that there is a gap between your lower back and the car seat. The right lumbar support should be able to fill this space so your lower back can rest comfortably throughout the drive. It should sit at the top of your pelvis and properly supports the small of the back. 

Why People Get Back Pain From Driving 

Poor sitting posture is one of the primary reasons for back pain during driving. People with pre-existing spine conditions like scoliosis or other back injuries are also prone to experiencing back pain symptoms while driving. Here are other common causes of back pain that can affect your condition while driving: 

  • Muscle overuse - Lifting heavy objects or repeated use of the back muscles can cause a tear or strain in your joints and ligaments. They can become inflamed when you are seated in the car, causing a painful episode of muscle spasms while driving. 
  • Herniated discs - A visit to your physician or doctor can help determine whether you have symptomatic disc herniations or bulging discs.Arthritis - Individuals with this condition can often experience inflammation of the joints which leads to pain when they move. Other causes of arthritis may be due to natural wear and tear of muscles due to age. 
  • Osteoporosis - This is a condition where the bones have become weak and brittle which can increase risks for spinal fractures, injuries, and muscle strain. People with osteoporosis may find driving for long hours very painful. 

How You Can Alleviate Back Pain At Home And While Driving  

Consulting a doctor for your back pain is recommended.However, there are also simple home remedies that can help relieve back pain before you seek immediate medical attention. Here are the treatments you can try to ease your back pain symptoms: 

  • Put on a cold compress or heat pack on your back. Ice therapy can reduce the inflammation of your muscles while heat therapy can  superficially increase blood circulation and bring temporary relief. Take frequent rest breaks. If you’re going on a road trip, make sure to stop at stations where you can park the car and stretch your spine

Effective Back Pain Treatments With AmeriCare Physical Therapy 

Don’t let back pain stop you from enjoying your driving and doing your everyday activities. Having constant support from a team of physical therapy professionals can help you minimize your back pain for maximized mobility and body function. 

At AmeriCare Physical Therapy, we are committed to helping individuals live their best lives by ensuring they get quality care for their physical therapy needs. Our dedicated staff of board-certified therapists can help you get the treatment you deserve to improve your overall physical health. Reach out to us today to schedule your appointment with one of our PT/OT specialists. 

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