Back pain – the hidden dangers in your car

If you get back pain in your car you’ll know how unpleasant it can make a long journey. Back pain can make driving a misery. Brighton chiropractor, Matthew Bennett, gives a few simple tips that can help relieve back pain in your car.

Top tips to prevent back pain in your car

Buy a bigger car. It is an unfortunate truth that many small cars are only designed with short journeys in mind. Poor support from inadequate seats that are made for smaller than average people make them suitable for driving around town at low speeds and not much else. Most drivers in Brighton and Hove use their cars for journeys of less than 20 minutes. A longer journey in many small hatchbacks, even if you don’t have a bad back, will be enough to have you reaching for the pain-killers.

There are a few other problems with smaller cars too. Never mind suspension that has springs better suited to a child’s toy than a modern vehicle, the ergonomics in the cabin can be terrible. The intrusion of the front right wheel arch into the footwell means that the pedals on even some medium sized cars are pushed towards the middle and you have sit in a twisted position. This of course is not ideal if you have back ache.

Not content with contorting our lower body un-naturally car manufacturers have devised the off-set steering wheel to complete the torment. Because space is tight in a small car the steering wheel can be set at angle too. These changes are subtle but when you’re stuck in that odd position for more than a few minutes, back muscles and joints start to complain.

Poor seats in cheaper cars don’t have enough support either in the low back (lumbar) area or in the often over-looked side bolsters. If such cars do have a lumbar support it can be in the wrong position for you.  Variable pump-up back supports in the seat can be helpful but if you pump them up enough to be useful they can push you so far forwards that the side bolsters, if they exist, become useless.

Getting in and out of smaller, low riding cars can be troublesome too. If your back has already stiffened up after a long drive, getting out of the car, levering yourself upright under a low roof line can strain your back. How much easier to lower yourself from a high riding car. Suv and cross-over type vehicles do really well here. They are not only higher off the ground but can sometimes have a more compliant ride, especially if you avoid larger wheel sizes. Putting things in the boot is easier too as you don’t have to bend over so far especially if the boot has no lip. If you have babies or toddlers getting them in and out of a car seat is a hazard in small, low cars. The Suv is great here.

Car seat adjustment to prevent back pain

The base of the seat should be long enough to support the backs of your thighs but not touch your knees. It should be slightly higher at the front than the back too.

The seat back should ideally be at about a 110-120 degree angle with the lumbar support pumped up to a comfortable position. The more options you can adjust the better. Height and tilt changes mean that you are most likely to find a comfortable driving position.

Steering wheel adjustments will help too. Adjusting for rake and in and out mean that you can get perfectly comfortable. The trouble starts when someone else uses the car and changes your carefully honed set up. Back to square one – unless you have electric memory seats of course. This option is only available at the executive end of the market but might be worth looking out for if you share a car.

If you have adjusted your seat as best you can but are  still getting back pain then give us call so we can book you in for free check-up. We will see if you have an underlying issue with your back joints or muscles which can easily be sorted out.

Next, What is the best car to beat back pain?


Sundial Clinics, Brighton's favourite chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage clinicsFor better backs, shoulders, knees and necks

Serving Brighton, Hove and the surrounding areas

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