Back Pain When Driving?

With summer coming to an end many people are driving long distances as they go from summer locations to home, school and work.

And long distance driving often results in back pain.

Are you sitting comfortably?

The seats themselves don’t always help – lowered, tipped back seats make the legs too straight, placing strain on the hamstrings, pelvis and lower back. The neck then tilts forward to look “straight ahead”.

A recent survey found that male drivers tend to sit with legs fully extended placing strain on the back muscles while women tend to sit too close to the wheel, tightening shoulder muscles.

10 top tips for staying comfortable while driving:

  1. Are you straight?

With your hands in prayer position they should be in the centre of the steering wheel.  Now place both hands on the steering wheel at “10” and “2” – you should see equal amounts of both legs. 

  1. Enough head room?
    You should be able to comfortably place a fist on top of your head
  1. Check your right leg

After driving for a short while put your hands on the steering wheel and look down again.  Is your right leg level with your left?

  1. Check your wallet

If you carry your wallet or phone in a back pocket this changes the position of your hips, twisting the spine – put them somewhere else while driving!

  1. Check your left leg

Do you float your left leg above the pedal?  This can cause muscle fatigue in the leg as well as strain in your ankles.

  1. How’s your seat?

Get a small cushion or rolled up towel and apply gentle pressure at waist height to support the curve of your lower back.

Your elbows should be gently bent with hands on the steering wheel and your back and thighs entirely against the seat.

  1. Relax

Getting stressed increases muscle tension.

Every time you stop for a traffic light inhale for a count of 3 and lift your shoulders high, then exhale for a count of 3 and drop them down. 

  1. Cool down

Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes after a long journey or a cooling gel before to the lower back to help relieve pain and inflammation.

  1. Length matters!

None of the above will have much impact on short trips – but staying in 1 position for longer than about 40 minutes will get uncomfortable! By improving the position you sit in you simply lengthen the time before you have to move.

Take breaks every 60 minutes and ignore the rest!

On long journeys try and stop every 1 or 2 hours and walk for 5-10 minutes. Jump around, bend, twist and move every way you can think of!

  1. And my final thought, if you are in pain – don’t panic!

Your back is complaining because you asked it do a hard thing, give it a chance to relax (perched on a bar stool is usually best, beer optional!). If it doesn’t ease in 48 hours, get some professional help.


For more information on relieving back pain and sciatica check out our website, our Facebook page “Bodyworks Health Clinic” or call us on 952 883 151