Tips to Relieve Back Pain from Driving

Tips to Relieve Back Pain from Driving

Introduction

Driving is a common part of our daily lives, but for many, it comes with an unwelcome companion: back pain from driving. Whether commuting to work, embarking on a road trip, or running errands, prolonged hours behind the wheel can take a toll on your lower back.

In this article, we’ll explore the causes of back pain from driving, its prevalence, and most importantly, offer practical tips to alleviate the discomfort and make your time on the road more enjoyable.

What causes Back Pain from Driving?

Driving, a daily activity for many, can unfortunately lead to back pain due to several individual factors. Let’s delve into the causes to better understand how prolonged hours behind the wheel affect our back health.

One primary factor is the inherent nature of driving, which involves prolonged sitting. The human body is not designed for extended periods of sitting. When we stay seated for hours on end, it can result in stiffness and strain on the lower back. The lack of movement during a drive contributes to muscle tightness, particularly in the lumbar region.

According to one study, low back pain (LBP) risk rose as the daily cumulative lumbar spine load increased when driving practically every day without a holiday.

In addition to prolonged sitting, poor posture is a significant contributor to lower back pain from driving. Many drivers adopt the wrong postures, especially during long journeys. Slouching or sitting in an awkward driving position can misalign the spine, causing undue stress on the muscles and ligaments supporting the back. This misalignment is a breeding ground for discomfort and pain.

Furthermore, inadequate support from car seats exacerbates the problem. Not all car seats are designed with ergonomics in mind, and some may lack the necessary lumbar support cushion. Insufficient support can lead to an improper curvature of the spine, adding to the strain on the lower back.

How common is it?

Back pain from driving is more prevalent than you might think. A significant number of people report experiencing lower back pain from driving, whether it’s a daily commute or an extended road trip. The discomfort may range from mild stiffness to severe pain, affecting the overall driving experience and even deterring some from hitting the road altogether.

With an 80% lifetime prevalence, lower back pain (LBP) is the most common musculoskeletal condition. Leading to more and more negative impacts on public, social, and cultural health. The prevalence of LBP was high among drivers.

This study calls for implementing health education and awareness programs about LBP and its risk factors.

How to relieve back pain while driving

Tip 1: Adjust Your Seat

Tips to Relieve Back Pain from Driving

The first tip, if you have low back pain that radiates down the back of your leg, is to adjust your seat. When we’re driving, we typically are in this upright posture with our leg extended and we’re pumping the brake. This puts some tension on the nerve in the back of the leg. We can scoot the chair a bit forward and introduce some knee bending to put some slack into that nerve.

Experiment with the tilt and angle of the seat until you find a position that provides optimal lumbar support.

Investing in a lumbar support cushion can also make a significant difference, providing extra support to the lower back during long drives.

Tip 2: Recline Your Seat

Second, we can gently recline the seat such that it’s a little bit leaned back. That introduces a little bit more slack into that nerve as we maintain that bent knee posture.

While it might sound counterintuitive, reclining your seat position slightly can relieve pressure on your lower back. Many drivers tend to sit too upright, which can contribute to discomfort.

Experiment with a slight recline to find a position that reduces strain on your spine while maintaining good visibility and control of the vehicle.

Tip 3: Take Regular Breaks

Third, prolonged periods of time sitting can lead to stiffness and discomfort. Plan regular breaks during long drives to stretch your legs and back. Simple stretches and movements, such as walking around or doing gentle back exercises, can help prevent tight muscles and improve blood circulation. Aim to take a break every 1-2 hours, especially during extended road trips.

Don’t Let Back Pain Stop your Road Trip, Consult Continuous Motion PT

If you find that lower back pain driving persists or worsens despite implementing these tips, it’s advisable to consult with physical therapy. Continuous Motion PT specializes in addressing musculoskeletal issues, including those related to prolonged periods of sitting or driving.

A personalized treatment plan can target the specific causes of your back pain and provide you with exercises and strategies, if necessary, spinal manipulation to manage and prevent discomfort.

Conclusion

Back pain from driving is a common issue, but with the right adjustments and habits, it can be alleviated. Prioritize proper seat cushions, take regular breaks, and consider exploring physical therapy for personalized guidance.

Don’t let back pain hinder your driving experience – take proactive steps to make your time on the road comfortable and enjoyable.

FAQs

What helps back pain from driving?

Lower back pain from driving can be relieved by adjusting your seat for adequate lumbar support, reclining slightly, and taking regular breaks to stretch and move.

Can driving damage your back?

Prolonged and improper sitting during driving, combined with whole-body vibrations, can contribute to back pain and discomfort. It’s essential to pay attention to seat ergonomics and take preventive measures to avoid potential damage.

What is the best position to drive in to avoid back pain?

The best position to drive in to avoid back pain is one where your seat is adjusted to support the natural curvature of your spine. Ensure your hips are level with or slightly higher than your knees, and experiment with a slight recline for added comfort. Regular breaks for stretching are also crucial in maintaining back health during long drives.

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Author

Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified