If you have ever been on a long distance car trip, you may recall all the aches and pains caused by sitting for long periods of time. Your posture while driving can make a difference. This article discusses some tips and ideas to make your next car trip more enjoyable. The information can result in your having less pain and discomfort at the end of the trip. If you are traveling with your family, there are suggestions that not only will help with the driver’s comfort behind the wheel but also the other passengers, in the car.
Posture for the Driver
Driving a long distance can be fatiguing and precipitate various aches and pains. Posture is important even on a drive of less than an hour. There are many causes for pain and discomfort associated with long drives, such as holding the right leg on the accelerator for a long period of time. The leg is rotated in a position that can aggravate the hip rotator muscles and irritate a bursa or a long nerve in the leg. The muscles tighten up and this prolonged strain can injure the muscle. Some ideas and suggestions for driver posture include:
- Avoid sitting slumped or slouched behind the steering wheel. Don’t forget to adjust the steering wheel to a comfortable height. Remember, poor posture adversely affects the spine and puts undue stress and strain on the neck and back muscles, ligaments and joints. Readjust your headrest for maximum protection.
- Adjust the seat height for comfort; it may differ from how it feels comfortable when just driving a few miles to work. Try a different height and distance from the steering wheel for the longer drive.
- Position the headrest about two inches or less behind the driver’s head and never more than four inches according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- The cruise control will allow you to move the legs, ankles and feet to avoid a static position. Before using the cruise control considering weather, road conditions, type of road and other factors that do not lend to safety.
- The use of a lumbar support cushion can help ease lower back pain and prevent stress to the back muscles when sitting for a lengthy period of time. Some seats have a lumbar support that can be altered. Also, the use of a towel roll behind the lower back can be used for support. It may have to be slightly adjusted up or down along the lower back for your comfort.
- When conditions are safe, place your hands below the 3 and 9 o’clock positions on the steering wheel. Keeping your hands at the 4 and 8 o’clock position reduces the stress placed on the top of the shoulders and the sides of the neck.
- Remove the billfold from your rear pocket. Sitting on your billfold tips the spine and pelvis. This stresses the biomechanics and posture to the back. This can fatigue the muscles of the back precipitating back pain.
- When stopping for fuel or food, take a few minutes to walk around the area before getting back into the car. This aids in circulation and requires the muscles to work and change tone. Do neck and upper back stretches. Slowly bend over to touch your toes. Side to side bending can also help stretch the lower back. This helps to minimize the stiffness and aches that develop without moving around.
Tips for the Pregnant Traveler
Traveling as a pregnant driver or passenger creates additional concerns. Some safety tips to consider are:
- Sit further back than normal on the passenger side to minimize the effect of air bag deployment. If driving, you should also slide the seat back.
- Place the lap belt across the hip bones and DO NOT place the belt above or across your abdomen. The shoulder strap should pass between the breasts and not go over the abdomen. NEVER place the shoulder restraint under your arm or behind you.
- Plan stopping every 1.5 hours or so to get up and move around. Whenever possible, walk around to keep your circulation active.
- If you are reading, glance away from the page every few minutes and look outside at the horizon or scenery. Don’t read for lengthy periods of time as it can cause eye strain and headaches from the vibration of the car and road contributing to movement of the book. This may bring on nausea or worse.
- Do exercises such as opening and closing the fingers and rotating your wrists, shoulders and ankles. Stretches for the neck can be helpful.
- Adjust the seat position every time you get back into the car. Change it from the prior setting you were using before you got out of the car.
Preparing for a Long Trip
Your trip will be more enjoyable if you have made the necessary preparations. Pick out a route before you travel. This includes probable stops for food, fuel and lodging. Additional planning will be necessary if you have younger passengers with you. Good preparation will help take stress out of the Trip. Stress may contribute to headaches, neck and upper back pain while driving. Some “suggestions” for items to have in the car for you or the family:
- Healthy snacks for adults and children. Junk snacks provide empty calories and after a short time hunger returns. Protein snacks help reduce the amount of snacking.
- A small medical kit with antiseptic wipes, bandaids, car sick bags and topical ointment for cuts and scrapes. Hand sanitizer for car, purse and pocket.
- Soft toys, books and quiet electronic games to play.
- Pillows for the children so it will be easy to take a nap in their car seats.
Driving can be enjoyable with good posture and preparation. Following these tips will help to minimize pain and discomfort occurring on your trip.
The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office can help you if you have further questions.