Vehicle ergonomics can play a significant role in preventing and/or improving neck and back pain related to driving. When we drive, all the fundamentals of ergonomics come into play: posture, force, and repetition. Just simply putting your hands on the steering wheel increases tension in the shoulders. The most significant contributors to increased neck pain while driving is insufficient head room and inadequate positioning. Maintaining good, balanced driving posture can reduce the amount of strain in the neck, shoulders and the lower back. Here are some tips on how to reduce strain in your back and neck with driving:
Good, Balanced Driving Posture
- Hips all the way back in the seat
- Hips slightly higher than knees, if possible. Use a stress wedge if needed.
- Midback supported by the backrest
- Arms held in a neutral position and hands on the steering wheel at approximately 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions.
- Feet can reach the gas and break pedals without reaching from the hips.
Vehicle Tips For Your Back:
- A vehicle that sits high off the curb, an SUV, truck or van is better than a sports car
- Enter a car by sitting down first, and then swing the legs in rather than climbing foot first into the vehicle. Reverse this process when getting out, swinging both legs out first.
- Automatic transmissions are less straining than manual
- Adjust the lumbar support so it adequately supports the inward curve of your low back. Or, you can add one using a small pillow, lumbar roll, or rolled up towel.
- Use a foam wedge to elevate your pelvis and add extra support if your seat has lost some rigidity
- The seat should be adjustable in tilt and height independently of each other, creating a space of 2-3 finger widths from the back of the knee to the seat
Vehicle Tips For Your Neck and Shoulders:
- Avoid leaning forward as you sit in the seat, keep your shoulders back
- Position the car seat so your arms are not fully extended
- The back rest should come to shoulder height and not obstruct your rear vision
- Choose an adjustable steering wheel, one that moves in/out and up/down, and tilt
- Ensure you have proper head room and leg room
- Look for a car with power steering