Back pain – the hidden dangers in your car
Written by Sundial Clinics Friday, 10 August 2012 07:40
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.Learn More
Dealing with recurrent back pain
Written by Sundial Clinics Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:30
If you are getting recurrent back trouble what can you do to help yourself and sort the problem out? Back pain usually goes away in a week or two at most but for four out of five people, however, it keeps on coming back. In a recent study published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, 70-80% of back sufferers were still having pain a year later in spite of receiving treatment.
Brighton Chiropractors Give Three Tips to Prevent Recurrent Back Pain
1 Stay Active
This is counter-intuitive as the temptation is to take it easy. Most people are afraid of moving about in case they make the problem worse and prolong the agony. This, however, is exactly the wrong thing to do. It is OK to rest for a day two or three days but after that doing gentle exercise is actually helpful even if is sore doing it or for a while afterwards. Walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates or yoga can all be a helpful start. Gradually increasing the intensity of the exercise as your muscles and joints get used the restored function is a helpful way to prevent recurrences. Our Exercise Video Programme is here.
2 Avoid aggravating activities
If your back goes bending over to tie your shoe laces or getting out of the car, the chances are that this activity is not the cause of the pain but rather the trigger factor. It is unlikely that something you have done hundreds of times before would suddenly become a problem without a change in the underlying condition of your back. A gradual weakening of your back muscles due to lack of core muscle strength leads to stress on the spinal joints which gradually stiffen and can eventually sprain.
There are certain activities that can often aggravate your back. These include prolonged sitting, lifting badly with your knees straight or lifting and twisting. Certain specific tasks can cause stresses on back joints and muscles like hoovering or gardening and you probably recognise what these are for you. Sometimes doing the activity for a brief period is okay but doing it for a prolonged period brings the pain on. It is helpful to start the activity gently, gradually increasing the effort you put in to it and then finishing with a few back stretches.
It is also worth noting when the pain comes on. If the back ache is worse in bed it could be an old sagging mattress that is not supporting your spine. If your back is stiff after sitting in low sofa for an evening then perhaps this is the culprit. These are obvious potential causes of back strain but our lifestyle is jammed full of hidden causes of back pain. A car with offset pedals or steering wheel twists the spine on every journey for instance. A computer monitor off to one side has the same effect. Even baby care has its own hazards. Bending over a changing mat or putting a baby in a car seat is a potential back strain in the making. If you do a lot of work at a desk there are tips to set up your desk and chair here.
3 Get regular check-ups from a back specialist
If getting a fistful of anti-inflammatory drugs from the GP doesn’t help resolve your back pain quickly then you might choose not to wait for referral to the local physio department. Currently the national average waiting time is twelve weeks by which time, if you are still getting pain, it is becoming chronic. If it does resolve the chances are that it will recur in a few months or a year or two. There are other options for back care though.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the government body that recommends the best treatments for all sorts of conditions says that manipulation from a chiropractor, osteopath or specialist physiotherapist should be part of effective care for back pain. A short course of treatment will often restore strength and flexibility to the back allowing you to get back to full activity. Once you have the initial problem under control and the pain has resolved there is some evidence that a periodic session of treatment can help prevent back pain from recurring.
Back pain can limit what exercise and activities you are able to do but with the right approach you can get rid of the problem and carry on as normal. These straightforward steps will help you get better.
If you want to find out if we can help you – call for a free check-up.
For more information look at our Treatment and Fees FAQ’sLearn More
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