Back pain in the car: “What are your tips for preventing pain while driving?”
It’s a reality: 80% of French people will suffer from back pain during their lifetime. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is in fact responsible for a sharp increase in the frequency of pathologies of the spine (or spine in medical language), in particular low back pain or back pain. Prolonged sitting in the car, especially during long journeys, can promote them by causing muscle tension and crushing our intervertebral discs. Here are the main causes of these phenomena and our advice …
Several causes lead to these back pain
1 ° The accelerations: they are at the root of the problem. Gravity is constantly putting pressure on our intervertebral discs *. In the car, the accelerations (or the famous “g”) in the antero-posterior and lateral axes add to the weight and act as disruptors on our spine, forcing our muscles to make constant adjustments to maintain balance.
2 ° The vibrations: caused by mechanics or the road, they are sources of pain, despite the efforts of automotive engineers to minimize their transmission to passengers.
3 ° The driving position: sitting at too steep an angle, tense up on the steering wheel or, conversely, slouching as on your sofa, all these unsuitable positions aggravate muscle tension.
4 ° A pre-existing pathology: herniated disc, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, etc. A simple short drive can put a strain on a fragile back.
First of all, choose the right car and the right equipment
Choosing the right car is essential to maximize comfort and minimize the impact on the back. It is important to choose one that you can sit in without twisting. Slightly tall vehicles, such as MPVs, crossovers, SUVs, are interesting on this point, which partly explains their success. To avoid inflicting potentially traumatic clutch and gear changes on yourself, opt for an automatic transmission. On the damping side, it is better to have suspensions geared towards comfort or an adaptive system allowing its characteristics to be modified depending on the road or the condition of the road. Also, big rims are nice, but a smaller fit will increase the sidewall height of your tires and offer increased comfort. As for the seats, prefer them enveloping with lateral support elements, if possible with electric adjustments to make micro-adjustments. Adjustable armrests are a definite plus! Heated seats are also a great investment to relax your muscles. Honorable mention for lumbar supports, but they will not suit all body types and must be properly adjusted. Poorly regulated, they can cause more harm than good. Otherwise, forget about the massage function. It is more like an expensive gadget than a real breakthrough in the prevention of low back pain.
When it’s time to hit the road, adopt the right reflexes
Before a trip, consider warming up and stretching to limit muscle tension. Then, be sure to get into your car without twisting, making sure to keep your feet together and turn evenly, after sitting askew. This will limit the stress that the rotation of the lower limbs and pelvis in relation to your trunk would impose on your back. Your backrest should be tilted around 110 °. Adjust the seat so that your knees can remain slightly bent when you depress a pedal. Then adjust the steering wheel so that your wrists rest on the top of its rim when you extend your arms. And, wedged in the seat, tighten your seat belt. Not everyone has the physical condition of Lewis Hamilton, adopt a flexible driving and not sporty if you want to preserve your lower back. You will thus reduce the various accelerations and de facto, the constraints imposed on your spine and, consequently, on those of your passengers. The latter can indeed hardly anticipate the movements of the vehicle and react reflexively to changes of direction, which maximizes the risk of low back pain for them. Every two hours (more often if necessary), to preserve your vigilance and your back, consider taking a break. And take the opportunity to walk and stretch.
Preserving your back: to do or not to do
> Regular and adapted physical activity is essential even for driving. The sedentary lifestyle causing weakening of the muscles, this makes their adjustments less rapid and effective, which disrupts the posture of the spine and makes the bed of pathologies of the spine.
> Use the cruise control on open motorways. This will also rest your right leg.
Not to do
> Wear a lumbar support belt regularly. Useful occasionally in cases of acute low back pain, it should be avoided as a preventive measure, because it weakens the muscles.
* This explains why astronauts grow a few centimeters during their stay in space. Their intervertebral discs gain height in weightlessness.