Driving a pain in the neck (and back)

Traffic Jam on the HighwayWe’re in the midst of a sitting epidemic and new research finds that driving is the most common form of transport to and from work – with 47% of people having a sedentary commute by driving every day.

Spinal care experts from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) are encouraging drivers to think about their backs when behind the wheel – warning that sitting in the same position for long periods of time is a leading cause of neck and back pain.

New research reveals that commuting/ travelling triggers neck or back pain for 14%.

The findings, released from the BCA, show that more than one in 10 (14%) spend between 30 minutes and one hour a day commuting by car. Of those who said they mainly drive to work, 44% then also spend most of their working day sitting.

BCA Chiropractor, Rishi Loatey is advising drivers and commuters alike to make small adjustments to their journeys; “With the number of people suffering with neck and back pain rising by almost 10% in the last year* it’s really important that we think about what we’re doing every day that could be causing unnecessary strain.
“Drivers may not realise that some simple adjustments to their car journey could make a big difference. If the wheel is too high and far away, tension will build up in the shoulders and upper back. If it is too low and close to the driver, the wheel may be touching the legs, which will reduce free movement, putting strain on the wrists and the muscles of the upper back.”

For those looking to build more movement into their working day, inspiration may be found in the active 18% of people who spend the main part of their commute walking, with some choosing to run in.

If you have no choice but to be stuck behind the wheel, the BCA offers the following top tips to ease the strain of driving:

Sit correctly in your seat. Make sure you have your bottom against the seat back with your shoulder blades touching the back rest of the chair. The seat should be set slightly backwards, so that it feels natural and your elbows should be at a comfortable and relaxed angle for driving.

Feet should fall naturally onto the pedals. You should be able to press the pedals to the floor by mainly moving your ankle and only using your leg a little. Avoid wearing wear high heels, or very thick-soled shoes, as you will have to overextend the ankle in order to put pressure on the pedals.

Exercise while stuck in traffic. Try buttock clenches, side bends, seat braces (pushing your hands into the steering wheel and your back into the seat – tensing and relaxing) as well as shoulder shrugs and circles.

Mirrors. Set your mirror positions to suit you before you drive off. The mirror positions should allow you to see all around the car with the movement of your
eyes with minimal head movement.

Relax. A relaxed driving position reduces stress on the spine, allowing your seat to take your weight.

Ditch the car. Muscles and joints are designed for movement so, where possible, walk or cycle as it will help improve muscle tone, circulation and posture – helping to ensure a pain free commute.

See more advice here