For many people driving can be a real pain. Car seats often force your body into a poor posture and that is going to cause you pain. The longer
you drive, the more it hurts.
Because your feet are more in front of you than below you, your knees are too high, your pelvis rolls back and your low back may not be properly supported.
The most important thing to think about when you are sitting is your pelvis. Get your pelvis right and everything else pretty much takes care of itself. This particularly applies when you’re driving your car.
The top of your pelvis should roll forward not backwards.
When it tilts forward it pulls the middle of the lumbar spine (low back) forward. It’s the same alignment as when you are standing up tall.
Your lumbar spine is supposed to be curving backwards. When it does your body weight is distributed evenly down the front (discs) and back (facet joints) of the spine.
The best way to keep your pelvis tilting forward is to sit with your knees lower that your backside. And have good lumbar support. Most cars do a poor job of this.
The base of the seat is usually tilted backwards and lumbar support is often inadequate or absent. Combine this with the angle of the legs and height of the knees and the time you may have to say in this position and it’s no wonder driving hurts a lot of people.
It compresses the discs at the front it puts chronic pull through the facet joints and muscles at the back that strains them causing pain.
What can you do?
If you can tilt the bottom of the seat forward and roll the lumbar support out, for both of them it’s often as far as they’ll go. You’ll also want to recline back just a little.
If you don’t have a tilt mechanism or lumbar support, use firm cushions to support you. One underneath on the back half of the seat and the other in your low back. This can be a huge help. If you don’t have a cushion on hand, fold up a towel. Or you can buy a ready made lumbar support.
Another thing that happens when your knees are high is that the hip flexor muscles (that cross your groin) tighten up and so when you get out of the car it takes longer than it should to straighten up.
See Sitting Properly for more info.
If you are doing long drives, stop, get out, move around and stretch as often as you need to. Sitting still in one position for hours can really tighten you up. The tighter you get the more you’re going to hurt. You don’t want to spend your weekend away or holiday in pain because you didn’t want to keep stopping and stretching on the way there.
When you get out of the car walk around a bit to loosen up and get the blood flowing properly again. The best few stretches are Standing Arching Back, and Calves and Groin.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, put your hands on the back of your hips, then push your hips to one side, say the left. Then push your hips forward and arc around to the right. Then back to the left. Repeat 10 or 20 times.
Calves and Groin
Stand next to the car with one hand resting on it for support. Feet are shoulder width apart, pointing forward, not out to the sides. Step forward with your left foot about 1-1.5 metres or yards. Make sure you keep your feet shoulder width apart with your right leg straight and your right foot pointing forward, with the heel still on the ground.
Bend your left knee, but don’t let it go further forward than your ankle. Keep your torso upright and your pelvis pointing forward. You should now be feeling a stretch in the gastroc muscle in the top of your right calf.
Feel it or not
You will also be stretching your right hip flexors (across your groin), although some people don’t actually feel this part of the stretch. Feel it or not, it’s still working. If you lean forward you lose the stretch of your hip flexors.
Take a few deep breaths and sink a little more into the stretch as you breathe out. If your left knee is going forward past your left ankle, move that foot a bit further forward so that it doesn’t, or you could strain your knee.
After a few breaths bring your left foot half way back, and bend your right knee as well. As you sink straight down you will stretch soleus, your other main calf muscle. You will feel it closer to your ankle. Do a few breaths.
Come up slowly and do the same with your right leg forward. Alternate a few times. Relax
On your way
Continue on your way. Stop and repeat as often as you need to keep feeling comfortable.
Go to Sitting Properly for lots more info and a video of the ins and outs of sitting down.