Can driving contribute to your back pain?

Correcting sitting posture and establishing good ergonomics in work place has been a hot topic for the past years. As we sit upright at our desks, we forget to apply this principle and habit to other settings such as driving. Many of us drive minimum of 1-2 hours a day. Once you observe other drivers when you are at a red light, you will see that many people drive with a jutted out neck or an extremely leaned back chair with one arm reaching across to hold the wheel. Both situations create asymmetry in our body and is carried out to other activities when we get out of the car. What does that mean?  Let me explain more.

Our muscles get the orders from our brain. After we drive 2 hours with a forward head posture, once we get out of the car and stand up, due to tightening of neck muscles, we also end up with standing up forward head posture. If you have a desk job where you have to stare at a screen occasionally or all day long, that even strains your neck more. This is how we may end up with neck problems and/or muscle aches.

Driving with one arm, and trying to reach to turn the wheel may also cause tightening of trunk muscles on the opposite side. This will also lead to over stretching of the trunk and shoulder muscles on the same side. Due to increased tightness on one side, and over-stretching on the other side, we become lopsided. Over time, an unevenness may also cause spinal asymmetry and/or muscle aches in our shoulders, trunk or even pelvis.

Our pelvis is made up of three bones; two identical ones on each side that makes up the upper part of hip joint, and one bone in the back. On each side, hamstrings insert in the back and the hip flexor inserts to the front of our hip/ pelvis. Since many drive automatic cars, we really do not use our left foot. While our right leg is semi straight in order to reach the gas/pedal, we tend to bend our left knee to place our foot on the floor. That position may cause left hamstring and hip flexor to be tighter than right side, which creates an imbalance in pelvis as well as in low back.

What we can do improve our posture while driving is;

  • Make sure your head is resting against the head rest
  • Use both arms while driving
  • Refrain from bending left knee at all times
  • Keep symmetry in mind!


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