March 4, 2020 | Lauren Tortorici, DC
One of the most common issues we hear from patients suffering from back pain is difficulty while driving. Driving can intensify neck, mid back, and low back pain by forcing us to sit in a suboptimal posture for a sustained period of time. Most cars do not have proper lumbar support, which further aggravates the issue. Here are some of our top tips to improve pain while driving.
Prep your spine beforehand
Sitting for long periods of time places a great deal of stress on the spinal discs. If you’re experiencing neck, mid back, or low back pain, any activity involving prolonged sitting will often worsen the pain. Furthermore, if you have a pre-existing disc herniation or disc bulge, prolonged sitting in the car can further exacerbate your condition. Because so many of our daily activities involve spine flexion (sitting at your desk, driving, bending forward to put on shoes, etc), doing exercises that promote extension is a great way to prep the spine for a long drive. One of our favorite ways to do this is with standing lumbar back bends. To practice this exercise, stand upright and place your hands on the backs of your hips. Use your hands to gently press your hips forward while arching your back. Hold this position for just 1-2 seconds and then return back to standing upright. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Use a lumbar support
Most cars have limited support built in for the low back. The purpose of lumbar support is that it supports the natural arch of the low back, which allows the rest of the spine to rest in the proper postural position. When we don’t have good support for the low back, we often tend to slouch forward, which places even more stress on the joints, muscles, and discs of the spine. We recommend a few different options for lumbar supports for the car. You can easily find an affordable option online, but sometimes it’s easier to just use a small pillow or rolled up bath towel placed in the curve of the low back.
Adjust your rear-view mirror
One of our favorite tips for maintaining good posture while driving is to sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed, eyes looking straight ahead, and head neutral. From this position, adjust your rear-view mirror so that you can see clearly. If you notice that you can’t see clearly out of your rear-view mirror while you are driving, use this as a reminder to sit up straight.
Bring ice packs in a cooler for long car rides
If you are experiencing acute neck or back pain and need to take a long car ride, bring along a cooler with ice packs. Applying ice to the area of pain for 10-15 minutes at a time every 30-60 minutes can help manage pain while driving long distances.
Take regular breaks to get up and stretch every 30-60 minutes
One of the most difficult activities for people who are experiencing neck or back pain is sitting for extended periods of time while at work or when relaxing at home. When the spine is injured, any sustained posture will typically aggravate the pain. Taking regular breaks every 30-60 minutes to get up and stretch is important for easing tension in the back and relieving stress from the joints, muscles, and discs. A great exercise to do during these small breaks is the lumbar back bends we mentioned earlier.
If you are experiencing neck or back pain, it’s important to get it checked out sooner rather than later. Early intervention is key for reducing the amount of time you spend in pain. Please contact our office today to learn more about how we can help.