Conditions & Advice: Driving Position
Driving for any length of time is not easy for the body to cope with. The lower back undergoes 6 times as much pressure when sitting compared to when lying down. The vibration and jolting of a vehicle in motion add to the difficulty of sitting fixed in one position. Whatever car (or bus/lorry) you drive it is important to take regular breaks to allow your body to move and to give your circulation a chance to repair any damage.
When buying a car we tend to make decisions based on looks, performance and reliability. We need to pay more attention to driver comfort, especially for high mileage drivers.
If your hips are lower than your knees, every time you depress the clutch, use the brake or maintain steady pressure on the accelerator, your thigh is acting as a lever (like a see-saw) over the pivot of the front edge of the seat. This can cause compression of the sciatic nerve and groin strain. Does the seat support your thigh or is it too long or short? Depress the clutch or brake fully. There should still be a slight bend in your knee. If your leg is totally straight, you may suffer worse injury in the event of a collision.
The seat back
Make use of the lumbar support so that the seat back fits you. If your car doesn't have this feature, use a cushion to support your lower back instead. If you sit bolt upright, all the weight of your upper body passes through your lower back. It is better to have the seat raked back a bit so that the weight goes into the seat instead.
The Steering wheel should be adjusted so you can see clearly over it. Stretch out your arms and place your wrists on top of the wheel. Adjust your seat forward or back so you can do this. Then place your hands in the driving position - there will be a slight bend at the elbow.
Note it is a restraint, not a rest. It is not intended for you to rest your head against when driving. It is there to help you in the event of an accident. The top of the restraint should be level with the top of your head. If it is left in the lowest position, it may act as a pivot for your neck and cause worse whiplash injury. You can look up how well your car's head restraint performs in a collision by clicking here.
If you drive a lot and find that you suffer with headaches, neck or shoulder ache, lower back pain or sciatic symptoms (tingling or numbness in the leg or foot), ask your osteopath to take a look at you in your car. As well as treating your symptoms we may be able to find ways to prevent the problem.Back to top