Long or frequent driving, vehicle vibrations, bumpy roads and sitting in a constrained position can place a lot of stress on the neck, shoulder and back muscles. Here are a few things you can do to help minimize your risk of developing an MSK (musculoskeletal) condition and associated pain.
1. Loosen Your Grip:
You’ve probably been told that it’s safest to keep two hands on the wheel. It is true for road safety, but it’s also helpful for your MSK health to keep your torso from twisting. Make sure to keep your hands relaxed on the wheel. If you’re a white-knuckle driver, this tight grip decreases circulation and increases muscle tension. Change your hand position frequently.
Do your shoulders ache when you are behind the wheel? If you are experiencing shoulder pain, neck strain, or an ache in your side, make sure you aren't tense and leaning forward towards the steering wheel.
3. Don't Slouch:
Leaning way back in the driver's seat with an arm out the window might look comfortable, but it can actually cause lumbar pain and side aches. The driver's seat should lean back just a little (100-110 degrees) to reduce pressure on your back.
4. Adjust Your Seat:
Most cars are equipped with adjustable seats. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. Sit comfortably with your back relaxed and supported. Reclining your seat slightly opens your hip angle.
5. Adjust the steering wheel:
Tilt the steering wheel so that you can reach it easily with your elbows bent at your sides. The steering wheel should also sit at about 25-30 cm from your breastbone.
6. Adjust your rearview mirror:
Note the position of your mirror, then sit up taller and adjust your mirror up by just a few degrees so that you can see behind you. Each time you check your rearview, you'll notice that you have to sit just a bit taller to see properly.
A key factor is how you sit while driving. By keeping your spine relaxed and neutral and avoiding a forward head position, you can minimize awkward postures that may lead to injury. No matter what type of activity you're engaging in, it's important to be aware of your posture!