Simple ways to prevent back pain while drivingDr. Mahima Handa
Whether you are an office-going person driving 40 km daily or a cab driver or a truck driver hauling something for the whole day, you are at a much higher risk of suffering from back pain. But back pain is not the only problem. With driving comes knee pain, pain in the joints too.
It is not a surprise that many medical professionals consider driving as the worst career for back pain. Driving carries the most risk for back pain more than anything. Before jumping onto solutions to prevent back pain, let’s know why driving causes a high risk of back pain. (Technical stuff alert!)
When you are sitting in the car it is not so different than sitting on a comfortable padded chair. But, as soon as you start moving things are different. Our spine has a natural frequency of 4-5 Hz. What does this mean?
When the vehicle is moving, the vehicle also produces a frequency in this frequency. When the frequency matches, you experience a load on your spine and discomfort. Frequencies of the vehicle changes depending on road and driving conditions and bad ones will probably hurt your back. These negative effects may get amplified when you are not sitting properly or seated in awkward posture. Many researches have also shown that men are more prone to get back pain compared to women. When you are driving for more than 4 hours in a day, proper precautions become necessary for a healthy back.
The first thing you need to get in place is comfort. Before starting off, make sure you are comfortable. Adjust your seat to whatever you feel comfortable at.
- Remove any wallet, phone, snacks, or whatever you have in your back pocket. That may throw your spine out of alignment.
- Sit up straight up with knees slightly higher than your hip and make sure that chin is not too ahead or pulled in with respect to your back.
- The distance of the steering wheel is another aspect of comfort. Keep the distance between your seat and steering wheel so that you are not stretching your back to reach the wheel.
- If your seat is not very comfortable, you can use extra cushioning and probably a pillow/rolled cloth behind your lower back. This will prevent you from getting lower back pain.
Make your ride as smooth as possible. Well, the road conditions are not always in your control but make sure that the majority of your ride is smooth by choosing better routes. Although the road conditions are not in your control, the condition of your vehicle is in your hands.
- Service your vehicle at regular intervals. If actions like pressing clutching, changing gears, using pedals are giving you trouble, get them serviced so that these actions are smooth as possible.
- Replace your suspensions if they are worn out. How do you know it’s worn out? If your vehicle feels too smooth or jumpy, it’s a sign that your suspensions are worn out. Technical tip: Adjust your suspension to dampen frequencies from 1 to 20 Hz.
- Replace your worn-out tires. This will significantly reduce vibrations or shaking.
Take breaks. This may always not be an option for office goers but, for cab drivers or truck drivers, this is a must. Take breaks every often, get out of the vehicle and move around. Take planned and scheduled breaks of 10 -15 minutes on your journey.
Shift positions. For those who cannot take periodic breaks, shifting position kind of serves as an alternative. Shift your position every often in your vehicle. Sitting for long can slow down the circulation in your back so moving around in your vehicle will help your back. Make sure you are not wriggling like a worm though. (A poor attempt at making a joke). What I mean is, move around but safely.
Try heat therapy. Again, sitting around for long reduces the circulation in your back. Applying heat on your back will prevent you from getting chronic back pain. If you are someone who is already suffering from chronic pain. Heat therapy can help you a lot. You can get a good quality heating pad to serve you during your long drives.
As a job, driving is a demanding one. But, that shouldn’t let your back take all the brunt. Back pain is not pleasant. It is in your best interest that you take care of your back. Try these tips and see if it’s working for you. If not, consult your doctor and take the best possible measures.