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Taking a Road Trip for the Holiday Weekend? Ergonomic Driving Tips to Prevent Low Back Pain

Driving Ergonomics

Taking a road trip to hit the slopes over President’s Day weekend? Many of our clients are heading to the Poconos or traveling out-of-state to go skiing or snowboarding. Driving, especially for long periods of time, can be hard on the body. A few hours behind the wheel can trigger a whole host of orthopedic issues, from low back pain to tight hamstrings.

There are precautions you can take to help you survive the long drive, whether you’re the driver or the passenger. Here are some of our favorite tips for driving ergonomically:

8 tips for Ergonomic Driving:

1. Get in a Good Position from the Beginning

As soon as you get in the car, make sure you’re in a good position. Take a moment to adjust your seat, steering wheel, etc. to make sure you’re starting the trip off right.

In terms of your body alignment, if possible, allow your: knees to sit just slightly higher than your hips and you

2. Take your Wallet or Cell Phone Out of Your Pocket

This is a simple but really important thing to do. Driving with something in your pocket immediately puts your body in an imbalanced position. The size of your cell phone or wallet might seem small, but sitting with your hips off even by just an inch for hours can have a huge effect.

3. Minimize Reaching for the Steering Wheel (Without compromising safety, of course!)

The action of reaching for the steering wheel puts your upper back and arm muscles into a state of tension. This position might be fine for shorter drives, but if you’re in this position for a long period of time, it can lead to upper back, shoulder or neck pain.

4. Use a Lumbar Roll to Maintain the Curve of Your Spine

 A lumbar roll (like this one) can help you maintain the curve of your low back during the drive. This can help keep your spine in the optimal position. When the low back rounds, it can strain the muscles and cause low back pain. 

5. Plan Rest Stops

Moving around helps prevent your back muscles from getting stiff from spending too long in one position. Moving around also helps to circulate blood to the muscles. If you can, take a quick walk at the rest stops – even if it’s just to use the restroom!

6. Change Positions

Try to change positions in your seat every 20 minutes to prevent your muscles from being in the same position for too long. Doing small stretches – such as ankle rolls – throughout your drive can also help keep your. body in a good condition.

7. Use Your Heated Seats

If you have heated seats, use them! Turn them on for a few minutes at a time during your ride to help relax the muscles and keep them from stiffening.

8. Take Deep Breaths

Driving can be stressful, especially if you’re on the highway or stuck in traffic. When you’re feeling frustrated, or if you’re just in stop-and-go traffic, try to do some mindful breathing to help calm your nervous system.

Experiencing Low Back or other pain after a long car ride?

Physical therapy might be able to help. Click here to schedule a complimentary phone consultation with one of our physical therapists.

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