If you drive inside Houston’s inner loop, you probably spend at least a portion of your week in traffic on I-69. Passing through the heart of Houston, daily traffic on Interstate 69 (also known as U.S. 59) continues to grow rapidly. If you work five days a week, you probably spend at least 60 minutes in the car every day, and many Houstonians likely have an even longer commute.
All that time spent in the car lends itself to bad posture, which will only lead to back and neck discomfort and pain. Common driving posture involves a jutting chin, rounded shoulders, rounded lower back and slouched pelvis. This is similar to how many of us sit in front of the computer, and it leads to problems like headaches, tight shoulders, sciatica, lower back pain and more.
Here’s how you can fix your posture while driving.
Adjust your seat height.
Keep your seat as high as it can go with your feet able to comfortably reach the foot pedals and without bumping your head on the roof of the car. A higher seat will keep your pelvis in the optimum position. If your seat is too low, you will slouch at your pelvis and round your lower back, giving you a hunched posture.
Keep seat proper distance from steering wheel.
Your seat should be close enough to the steering wheel that your knees are bent at 120 to 135 degrees to reach the pedals. Any further back than this and you’ll probably notice tight glutes and hamstrings.
Adjust the recline of your seat.
The ability to recline your seat is a nice feature, but too much of a good thing can be bad for your back. The angle of your seat should allow your hips to be parallel to your knees and your back to be reclined at a 100 to 110-degree angle. If you’re still too low after adjusting your seat, try sitting on a cushion or a wedge.
Use lumbar support.
Most cars have some lumbar support in the seats, but if yours does not (or the support is not enough), use a lumbar support pillow or even a rolled-up towel to help preserve the neutral arch of your lower back and prevent a rounded lower back. There is such a thing as too much lumbar support, which can over-pronounce the natural curve of your back.
When you’re stopped in traffic, stretch.
Doing simple back stretches while sitting in the car can help elongate your spine and prevent back discomfort and pain. To stretch your spine and reduce compression, follow these steps:
- Tuck your pelvis toward the back of the seat.
- Tilt your lower ribs down, focusing on elongating your spine.
- Place your hands on the sides of your seat and gently push down as you bend forward at the waist.
- Relax your arms.
- Roll shoulders backwards.
Keep elbow position in check.
Your elbows should be held in a neutral position close to your body. Do not allow them to flare out, and do not rest your elbows on the window. Doing so causes your shoulders to hunch, resulting in poor posture. You may need to lower your steering wheel to minimize reach and allow your elbows to rest comfortably near your side. Hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock (or lower) rather than 10 and 2.
Tuck your chin.
Stopped at a red light? Do a few chin tucks. First, make sure you’re sitting with proper posture. Then, while resting the back of your head on the head rest, gently tuck your chin in and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. You should feel a stretch at the back of your neck.
Don’t sit on your wallet.
It’s a common habit for men, but it’s not a good one. Before getting into your car, take your wallet and other items out of your back pocket to allow your pelvis to sit in the most neutral position.
Making these small adjustments to your driving posture can make a big difference in how your back feels. While driving I-69 may not be a fun experience, alleviating the stress and strain on your back can make it more bearable. If you are experiencing back discomfort, contact Dr. Kushwaha today to learn about your treatment options.