How to set your car seat up correctly to avoid back pain

Driving you mad! Set up your car seat correctly

Many of my patients spend a lot of time driving. Whether driving to work, on holiday or driving their partners, wives, husbands mad, being in a great driving position could help you maintain good posture, relieve low back pain, upper back pain and neck pain.

Nearly half of British drivers suffer from repetitive driving injuries (RDIs) from a poorly positioned driving seat and bad posture.

A study by eBay Motors found the recently diagnosed condition RDI as widespread among UK road users and could lead to muscular skeletal problems in the long term.

Problems drivers are suffering with:

  1. Lumbar pain – 74%
  2. Foot cramps – 81%
  3. Stiff neck – 74%
  4. Headache – 73%

Did you know that 6.5% of drivers get pain after 15 minutes of driving and 9% travel a mere 22 miles before symptoms begin.

During your first driving lesson most people are told to adjust the seats to find a comfortable driving position. This comfortable driving position may not be the best position for driving comfortably.

Nearly everyone knows where the buttons and levers are to move the seat around but most people are not taught to adjust their car seat to offer the best support and reduce low back pain, upper back pain and neck pain.

So what is the best way to adjust your driving position?

Following is simple step-by-step guide to setting up your driving seat. (Clause; this will not prevent earache, back seat driving or becoming temporarily unlocated).

A 6-step guide to adjusting your driving seat.

Step 1: Seat position

Whether in a manual or automatic you want to position your seat so a light bend remains in your knee when the clutch and accelerator is fully depressed. If the seat allows raise the seat so you have a clear view of the road, your thighs are fully supported and your hips are slightly higher that your knees.

Locking your knees can cause reduced circulation and may lead to you becoming woozy or even passing out.

Your legs and pelvis should have ample ability to move and shift position without detracting from your driving. This will relieve pressure points and keep blood circulating during long drives.

Staying in a cramped position for too long may lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Step 2: Rake angle

Adjust the rake angle of you seat so that you are as upright as possible and your entire back fully supported, typically 20 – 30 degress from the vertical. This may feel strange at first if you are used to lying down while you drive.

The more upright you are the less you will have to compensate in a poor posture.

Step 3: Lumbar support

If you have a lumbar support adjust this to gently fit your back with no pressure points or gaps.

This supports your natural lumbar arch and helps prevent thoracic kyphosis and chin poke.

Step 4: Head rest

Adjust the head restraint to ensure the risk of injury is reduced in the event of an accident.

Step 5: Steeling wheel

Reach your arms out in front of you ensuring to keep your upper back and shoulders on the seat. Now adjust the steering wheel so that your wrists rest on top of the steering wheel. This means that when you hold the wheel in either the ten to two or the quarter to three position you will have a comfortable bend in your elbow.

The less you reach forward and up the less the strain on your neck and upper back.

Step 6: Rear view mirror

At this point make sure you are sitting as upright as possible. Now adjust the rear view mirror so that you can just see out of the rear windscreen.

If you begin to slouch down or get in a bad position your rear view will begin to become obstructed by the car’s ceiling fabric and will act as a visual reminder to sit up straight.

Repeat steps 1-6 and fine tune as necessary.

So there you have it. A simple guide to setting up your driving position.

Remember to take frequent breaks, approximately every 2 hours, so you can get out and stretch. This will help ease stiffness, pain and minimise risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Drive safe!