We’ve all been there-you’re driving your daily commute, or your weekly errands and you start to feel an ache spread across your shoulders, your neck, and your back. Those everyday aches you experience while you’re behind the wheel can be due in large part to your driving position.
Although the type of car we drive can also be a cause for our discomfort while driving as some car seats fail to cushion our lower backs, our ergonomic chair position, or how we’re supported when sitting to support our posture, also plays a crucial role here. In fact, our driving posture and back pain that comes as a direct result of driving can make drivers more vulnerable to injuries. According to Dr. Ginger Edgecombe Dorsey, Ph.D., Ergonomics Program Manager for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), if you experience back pain and discomfort while driving, it is because of how you sit. In her research, she has found that over time, poor driving posture can result in chronic pain.
Additionally, unlike regular sitting, while a person is seated in a car in motion, the body experiences different forces of acceleration and deceleration, lateral swaying from side to side, and whole-body up-and-down vibrations. Thus, in order to do our part in preventing chronic pain from driving, proper posture sitting is a must when we’re behind the wheel.
Fortunately, there are things that we can do to mitigate the various posture-related discomforts that are experienced by drivers by properly adjusting your seating before hitting the road.
Tips to get your driving position comfortable while behind the wheel
1. Don’t sit too close to the wheel. When you’re trying to decipher how close to the wheel you should sit, it’s important to avoid being too close. Ideally, your seat position should allow for you to be able to reach the pedals and handle them with your entire foot. At the same time, you don’t want your chest to be too close to the wheel to avoid the possibility of getting into a collision that could result in severe injuries to your chest or head.
2. Support your back. When supporting your back for maximum comfort while driving, you should slide your tailbone to be as close to the seat back as possible. Another way to adjust this properly would be to allow space for a two to three-finger gap between the front of your seat and the back of your knees. By chance your vehicle can’t allocate for this specific gap, there are back cushions made for cars that could keep you more comfortable.
3. Set your headrest for you. In order to accommodate proper back support while driving, setting your headrest is key. If you’re trying to think of what your headrest should be set to, make sure it’s able to rest between the top of your ears and the top of your head. The headrest should just barely touch the back of your head while you’re seated. By having proper headrest support while driving, it can reduce any whiplash you may otherwise experience in the event of a rear-end collision.
4. Adjust the mirrors. To prevent neck strain, it’s important to ensure your rearview and side mirrors are adjusted properly for you to see everything around you without having to strain your neck to do so. In other words, you want to be able to see the traffic behind you and beside you without having to crane your neck in order to do so.
5. Get the right height. Make sure your driver’s seat is adjusted for you and your height alone. If your car has lumbar support, this can come in handy when you’re determining how high your seat should be raised by providing additional support to your hips and shoulders, while seated. Additionally, make sure your seat is raised at least three inches above the steering wheel.
The bottom line.
When it comes to getting to your destination, the ride is a lot smoother when you’re comfortable. Making sure your driver’s seat position is properly allocated for your height and your spine can be the difference between a comfortable ride and a painful one.
During the warmer months of the year, we hope you and your loved ones are remaining healthy, and playing it safe on the road!