Vehicle Ergonomics


Vehicle Ergonomics

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

Dehydration and Back Pain

We’ve all heard it before, drink more water!  But many people are unaware of the importance of fluid intake as it relates to back pain and the overall role hydration plays in keeping our body healthy. Approximately 50-60% of our body weight is water weight. Our bodies need water to help with digestion and eliminate waste.

Water also helps to fill our cells with fluid which in turn cushions and lubricates our joints. The intervertebral discs of the spine are composed primarily of water, when we stand all day it results in compression of the disc and results in loss of water from the disc. When we lie down at night to sleep our body needs to re-hydrate our discs, which is where proper hydration comes into play!

Insufficient water intake can lead to muscle spasm and renal dysfunction.  By the time our brain registers that we are thirsty our bodies are already in a dehydrated state. Furthermore, as we age our thirst mechanism decreases so individuals may not ever register thirst. Also, many of the other drinks we consume i.e. coffee, tea, and pop all contribute to dehydration.

A simple equation to determine fluid needs – for every pound of body weight you need about a half an ounce of fluid intake per day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds x 0.5 = 70 ounces; 70 ounces divided by 8 = 9 cups of fluid per day.

Nutrition and Control of Chronic Inflammation

Chronic, low grade inflammation is at the root of many health problems, such as cancer, digestive problems, and chronic pain. Inflammation is our body’s response to constant irritants including smoking, lack of exercise and diets that are high in fat, calories, and processed foods. As we approach the holiday season, eating healthy is a great way to reduce inflammation and promote better healing and overall health.

1: Choose foods that Decrease Inflammation & Support the Immune System:

Foods That Fight Inflammation (EAT)                             Foods That Increase Inflammation (LIMIT)

  • Omega- 3 Rich Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Oysters)
  • Red Meat
  • Whole Grains (Wild Rice, Oatmeal)
  • Processed Carbs
  • Beans and Legumes (Black Beans, Lentils)
  • Sugar
  • Nuts and Seeds (Walnuts, Almonds, Flaxseed)
  • Soda, Fruit Juice, Sports Drinks
  • Fruits and Vegetables (Berries, Leafy Greens)
  • Full Fat Dairy
  • Spices (Garlic, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger)
  • Trans Fats Found in Processed Food and Pastries
  • Cocoa and Dark Chocolate 70% or Higher
  • Excessive Alcohol
  • Olive Oil and Green Tea
  • Aspartame (Artificial Sweetener) and Sodium

2: Maintain Blood Glucose Levels: Foods with high GI rating increase glucose rapidly, and then fall quickly. This spike in blood sugar leaves you feeling hungry sooner. Foods with low GI help you stay fuller longer.

Low GI Foods (EAT)                                                     High GI Foods (Limit)

  • Whole Grains
  • White Bread
  • Most Vegetables
  • White Rice
  • Dairy- Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
  • Corn
  • Most Fruits
  • Most Cereals
  • Nuts and Barley
  • Pretzels and Popcorn
  • Whole and Sprouted Wheat Bread and Pasta
  • Rice Cakes
  • Slow Cook Oatmeal
  • Some Fruits and Fruit Juice
  • Brown Rice and Quinoa
  • Sugar

3: Drink More Water!!  

4: Decrease Sugar Intake: Sugar has shown a significant impact on inflammation in the body. The AHA recommends daily intake not exceed 37g for men and 25g for women.

List of Words Meaning Added Sugar to LIMIT:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Raw Sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert Sugar
  • Maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • White Grape Juice
  • Lactose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup

5: Decrease Sodium Intake: The DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) bases its diet on 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day and suggests further lowering salt intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. 2,400mg of sodium equals 6gm or 1 teaspoon of table salt.

Lower Sodium Options:

  • Buy fresh, frozen, or canned with no salt-added vegetables
  • Choose low or reduced-sodium versions of foods when available
  • Limit cured foods (such as bacon/ham), foods packed in brine (pickled vegetables, olives)
  • Choose fresh salsa instead of ketchup or barbeque sauces

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!!