Whether you commute long hours or just like to drive around for fun, long hours in the car can hurt your back. While some people may have public transportation or biking options, for others that’s just not a reality. If you’re unable to avoid long-term periods behind the steering wheel, check out these 5 options to get rid of car back pain.
1. Give Yourself Lumbar Support
The seats in your car are designed to help give you lumbar support. However, if you slouch or generally have poor posture, it can leave your lumbar spine with nothing to rest against. If your back starts to ache during a long car ride, check your posture. Use this checklist to make sure you’re supporting your spine:
- Lumbar Spine: The middle section of your spine (where it curves inward) should be pressed against the spot where your car seat goes forward. If you want to beat car back pain, this is the most important step to take, since the lumbar support will take a lot of pressure off your spine. If you notice that you’re sitting in the front of the seat, move back until you feel the car seat.
- Legs: Are your knees higher than your hips? If so, adjust your position until they aren’t. Your hips should always be above your knees. Once you make this change, pain relief you come very quickly!
- Neck/Shoulder: Is the upper part of your spine straight? Make sure that your shoulder blades are gently pressed into your seat. If there isn’t a comfortable way to do this, adjust your seat until sitting in that position feels natural.
2. Stretch Often
When you’re driving for long distances, such as during a road trip, you should stop every few hours to rest and stretch. For every three hours that you sit in the car, you should stop to rest and stretch for roughly 20 minutes.
Additionally, sitting in the car for too long can cause side effects like pressure on your spine — especially if you’re slouching. Taking a short walk is a great way to give your back a break before you get back on the road.
3. Empty Your Back Pockets
Sitting on items in your back pockets, such as a wallet or cellphone, can throw your spine out of alignment. Not only can this contribute to a painful car ride, but it can also compress your sciatic nerve if you do it too often. This can lead to a chronic condition called sciatica. Sciatica can cause chronic neck and back pain, so double-check that your pockets are empty before sitting down.
4. Make the Most of Your Car’s Amenities
If your car has cruise control, try to use this feature as often as possible. It helps you keep your feet level and keeps your weight evenly distributed. This makes for a much gentler car ride for your spine!
Additionally, if your car has heated seats, turn them on to help ease pain and muscle spasms. If your car doesn’t have heated seats, buy a power adapter and use your car’s cigarette lighter to power an electric heating blanket.
5. Don’t Sit Too Still
A lot of back pain comes from not moving for long periods of time. Even if you’re not in a position to get out of the car, shift in your seat to redistribute the weight along your spine. While you should always sit up straight, you can try leaning from one side to the next, or moving your legs a bit to help the blood flow.
Stop Car Back Pain For Good
If you’re going to be in the car for an extended period of time, you don’t have to resign yourself to back pain. You should be able to hop in the car and enjoy your drive without worrying about an aching back. Use these five tips to beat car back pain and give your spine some rest. Additionally, you can take steps at home afterward, including using hot compresses and ice packs.
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This post was updated by the team at Pain Resource in September 2019.