Driving is an integral part of American culture, from highway odes to sprawling suburbs designed around car ownership – but is all that time spent behind the wheel causing back pain and poor posture? Though you may think your car is perfectly comfortable, few cars easily accommodate every body type. To find the perfect, posture, you’ll need to make some changes.
Before you get back in your car, take some time to consider these 3 features of how you drive. Considering that Americans drive nearly 11,000 miles a year on average, you can’t afford to compromise on proper posture.
Assess Your Vehicle
One of the leading reasons drivers suffer from poor posture is because they drive cars that are not compatible with their body size, especially if they share a car with another driver. For example, tall drivers need enough legroom, a high enough steering wheel, and taller, high-backed seats, while shorter drivers need to be close enough to the pedal and steering wheel, without needing to strain to see the mirrors.
In practice, some cars can do both. According to a study on driver height by Consumer Reports, the Subaru Forrester and Toyota Highlander are excellent for drivers of all heights because drivers can adjust the seating and steering features as needed. The Highlander is also a perfect family vehicle – it’s rated as one of the best SUVs with 3 rows – and parents with kids spend even more time on the road than most. You should be modeling good posture while you play chauffeur.
Bring Your Own Back Support
According to APHIS, an ergonomics program sponsored by the USDA, driving is related to more back pain than other sitting or standing activities, but adjustable vehicle features can reduce pain and injury risk. Unfortunately, even when adjusted based on the driver’s height, most vehicle seats lack lower back support. This makes it easy for you to slump down in the seat while driving, rather than engaging your core.
One way to avoid this bad habit is by bringing your own back support when you get in the car, just as you might when flying. Place a lumbar support pillow or even a rolled up sweater at the small of your back to reduce strain on your neck and spine. This will encourage you to use your muscles to sit up straight, rather than collapsing into the seat, even if you’re tired.
Empty Your Pockets
Before you sit down in the driver’s seat, make sure to take everything out of your back pockets. It may seem like a minor thing, but you want to avoid sitting on your wallet because it can force your pelvis out of alignment, putting added stress on your back.
If you’re sitting in the correct position, you should be able to feel your sitz bones underneath you, and your body should be placing relatively even pressure on each. Not sure what they should feel like? Your sitz bones, properly called the ischial tuberosities, are the bones at the base of your pelvis. You can practice sitting equally on them by sitting on a hard chair or on the floor and rocking from side to side. You’ll feel two bones sticking out underneath you – the goal is to distribute your weight equally across both.
Driving should make your life easier, not cause you added pain and stress, but the way most of us sit in the car leads to discomfort and permanent postural changes. So sit up straight and take the wheel – you’re in the driver’s seat, so don’t drive your body into a rut.