Driving, or sitting in a car as a passenger, is something that most of us have to do on a regular basis. Maybe your job revolves around driving or you often take long car trips to visit friends or family. Whatever the reason you're travelling and whether you are the driver or passenger, sitting in a car can take its toll on your body. So, what can we do about this?
First and foremost... safety! The ideas I suggest here are for you to take or leave as you see fit. The key thing though is that you keep your safety paramount. There's no point in adjusting your seat to ease the pain in your lower back if you then can't easily reach the break pedal! In most cases though, having your body in a more comfortable position will make you a safe driver. Use common sense and if in doubt test out any changes you have made with a short test drive.
Most cars give you the option to make a few adjustments. Some cars give you the option to make several minor adjustments to your seat. Usually the steering column is adjustable, allowing you to sit back rather than having to lean forward to reach the wheel.
Adjusting the car seat correctly has multiple benefits: - Better control over the car - Less fatigue while driving long distances - Better blind spot visibility - Less risk of injury from the airbag and steering column if you have an accident
It sounds a little boring but if your car seat is currently less than comfortable have a look at the cars features, maybe even read through the manual. You may find that you can adjust the mid lumbar support, lower back support, seat pitch, control how the seat ‘hugs’ you, raise or lower at the front and/or the back as well as the position of the seat forwards and backwards.
This all sounds a bit complicated to me and of course not all cars have these options so see what you can do with what you have.
There is quite the market for car seat comfort props these days. There are seat cushions which may help with hip or lower back pain caused by sitting in the car.
Do you get out of your car and notice that you’re suffering from lower back or hip pain? Car seat cushions can help prevent poor posture, thereby reducing the likelihood of pain after long hours of driving. Car seat cushions also act as a shock absorber, reducing spinal movement while on the road. Unfortunately, many car seats don’t come with much lumbar support when they leave the factory. Car seat cushions help reduce that problem.
If you find the seat belt cutting into your neck or chest then you can get a seatbelt cover to protect you or a clip to adjust how the belt lays across you.
There are lumbar (lower back) and neck supports. You can either buy these or create your own using small cushions or blankets. It may take you a while to find something that works for you - getting the right size can be difficult - but stick with this, once you find what works for you the benefits are huge.
Sitting in the same position for a long period of time, no matter how comfortable you may feel, isn't great for the body. We need movement to be comfortable, even if just some small movement. Whenever possible stop the car, get out and move. You may not want to do a full on stretching session in a motorway service station but try to walk around quickly for a few minutes. Get the blood pumping and the muscles moving. Little and often is key here.
Whilst taking your break, and at the end of the drive make sure you stretch. Being in the car holds your body in a small, cramped shape and it always feels better to stretch out after a car journey. The following stretching suggestions are taken from Konexial.com which is a webstie for truckers. If these stretches are good enough for truckers who drive for a living, then they should work for you. https://konexial.com/8-essential-stretches-for-truck-drivers/
Reach over your head, grab the opposite ear and gently pull it towards the shoulder doing the reaching. This should relieve neck tension and upper shoulder tightness. Repeat with your opposite arm.
With one arm straight across your chest, use your other arm to pull the first arm towards your chest. This will stretch your shoulder and triceps. Repeat with your opposite arm.
Facing your car or a wall, press the heels of your hands against the car/wall, step back, and bend at the waist to form a right angle with your body and legs. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and your spine.
Bracing your fingers on the steering wheel, bend your wrists forward and backward—stretching your wrists and bringing life to your forearms. For an even deeper stretch, try lightly bending back each individual finger.
With toes pointing in the same direction, take a large step forward with one leg. Bend your front leg at the knee and slowly sink your body down until comfortable, making sure not to let the front knee go beyond the front toes. Repeat, slowly, with the other leg or try a walking lunge. For balance, try keeping your hands on your hips.
Standing beside a wall, place one palm, with fingers pointed up, against the wall. With your arm extended and slightly bent, rotate your body away from the wall. You will feel the stretch in your arms and chest. Repeat with the opposite arm.
Pressing both hands on your upper chest, bring your chin upwards and gently move your head away from your hands. You should feel a stretch in your upper chest and neck.
Standing on one slightly bent leg, reach behind yourself to grab your raised leg—just above your ankle—and pull your heel towards the centre of your glutes. Hold and repeat with your opposite leg.
Is driving something that comes naturally to you or do you instantly tense up at the thought of driving? We're not all comfortable driving. Sometimes we can identify the factors that make us tense and take action to avoid these. For example if driving at night isn't your thing then a little forward planning may help you to avoid this. Maybe you can't stand driving on motorways, can you give yourself some more time for your journey and take a different route which avoids motorways? I know this isn't always practical or doable, but it may help to just identify what about driving makes you uncomfortable,
When we feel stressed about something our bodies really take this on. It's very common for shoulders to rise and hunch forwards or for stomaches to rumble uncomfortably when the mind is stressed. These physical manifestations don't help to make the driving experience any easier of course. As well as being mindful of our emotions and, if possible, what is causing them, we can take some practical, physical steps to ease the stress.
One of these practical steps we can do is to breathe. Simply taking some deep breaths can go a long way to relaxing the mind and body and giving you some perspective.