Tips to increase your comfort behind the wheel
The car is loaded up and you are ready to hit the road. You’ve checked the pressure in your tires, filled the tank, and changed the oil. But, have you taken the right steps to make sure your body is ready for time sitting behind the wheel?
Whether you are headed out on a long road trip or spending a few hours on I-5, sitting behind the wheel can be tough on your body. Neck and shoulder pain, as well as low back and hamstring pain commonly creep in while you are focused on the road. However, pain while driving shouldn’t be inevitable!
Here are a few things you can do to prevent aches and pains from interfering with your drive.
Make sure you are sitting in an even and upright position in your seat with your lower back against the back middle of the seat. In most cars, and with sitting in general, we have a tendency to fall into a curved or rounded low back position. This is not ideal for our low back, as our lumbar spine should hold a slight natural curve in the opposite direction. So, if your car has built in lumbar support, use it to keep your spine in a more neutral position. However, if your car is like mine and lacks good support here, you may need to improvise. You can try rolling a jacket up and placing it behind your back. I like to use a lumbar support pillow that you can inflate or deflate depending on how much support you need.
2. Adjust the Mirrors
Once you are situated in your seat, adjust your mirrors so that they are ideally situated for good posture. This way, when you start to slump into a less than ideal position, a quick glance in your mirror will remind you that you’re likely starting to hunch.
3. Cruise Control
When it is safe to use your cruise control, this can be a nice function allowing you to offload your spine and move your legs to a more comfortable position. Putting both legs on the ground at once shifts some of your body weight off of the spine and can provide you with some small movement that is all around advantageous
4. Adjust the Way You Get In and Out
Most of us don’t pay much attention to how we get in and out of the car, but when hip, knee, or back pain crops up, it can serve as a reminder that we may not be using the most ergonomic technique. Try swinging both legs out of the car first so you are facing out, then hinge through your hips and get out in a coming up from a squat position.
5. Posture Exercises Behind the Wheel
When you are holding onto the wheel (on a straight stretch of road) you can practice squeezing your shoulder blades back and down towards your spine, while simultaneously tucking your chin slightly. Re-establish your good posture by checking in and doing these movements every 15 to 30 minutes behind the wheel. An added benefit is that these movements can feel great for your upper back.
6. Rest Breaks
It is always important to give your body movement breaks, especially on those longer drives. Just a few minutes of standing up and moving around during a drive can go a long way. Make sure to account for mini breaks throughout your trip to get your body up and moving intermittently.
7. See a Physical Therapist
These tips are a great starting point to improving the comfort of your drive. However, not all aches and stiffness can be alleviated with these simple steps. When this is the case, Jenn and Jesse at Zenith Performance and Wellness are here to guide you towards feeling better.