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Experiencing back pain while sitting in a car is a common ailment affecting as much as 50% of the population, according to one survey. The fact that such discomfort is shared by many, however, does little to console those who have pain sitting in vehicles. This pain is most frequently caused by one of three factors: vibrations from the steering column, poor seated posture, and simply sitting in the car too long. Understanding the causes provides insight into potential solutions. Here are tips on how to position yourself, the steering wheel, and the seat for greater comfort, plus other ideas for staving off an achy back when you’re in the car.
Steering wheel adjustment
Step 1: Place both hands on the steering wheel. If your elbows are not bent at 90 degrees in this position, vibrations from the steering column may be the culprit of your back pain.
Step 2: Move the steering column so your elbows bend at right angles. Adjust the steering wheel in small increments. Re-check the angle of your elbows, and stop adjusting when you achieve a 90 degree bend in each elbow.
Adjust the seat position
Step 1: Sit in the seat of your car. Note where your back, neck, and head make contact with the back of the seat and headrest.
Step 2: Adjust the back of seat’s angle. Usually, a 10 to 15% tilt in the back of the seat is comfortable for most people, but you want the lower back and the shoulder blades to make contact for support and to maintain the natural curvature of the spine.
Step 3: Make adjustments to the tilt and height of the headrest. While you may not feel pain in the cervical spine near the neck, it does affect general spinal health.
Position the headrest at the level of the bony part of the back of your head and about an inch away from your head. This prevents undue pressure while driving while being in the right position to soften and jarring from sudden stops or collisions.
Manage your seated time
Step 1: Observe the sensations in your back as you drive. Notice how you feel, and do not try to distract yourself from discomfort.
Step 2: Take frequent breaks. Either stop and get out of your vehicle to stretch and move at regular intervals or whenever your back begins to feel uncomfortable.
While this may seem like an unnecessary measure when on a long trip, it’s better to put in extra effort in the beginning in order to feel pain-free once you reach your final destination.
Chances are, one of these three methods will help to alleviate back pain from prolonged sitting in a car. If, however, they do not work, consult a physician or chiropractor because there may be more complex issues behind your discomfort.