Whether driving a car, a bus or a lorry or even as a passenger you could be suffering driving related back pain.

Keep moving

It's not just the driver who can stiffen up in a car. Passengers are often seated for long periods of time in a fixed position. Movement is the key for car, driver and passenger.

As a passenger, try to alter your position from time to time and sit with your knees bent and thighs level and comfortable. Avoid sitting with your legs crossed; move them regularly.

For driver and passengers, stop regularly, ideally once an hour, especially when feeling tired. Get out of your vehicle and walk around it several times.

Stretch like a cat, gently moving your arms around, bringing your knees up to your hips, and stretching your whole body.

Back pain sufferers

  • Choose a car, with an adjustable lumbar support (and use it). Alternatively, keep a flat cushion in the car for use in the small of your back.
  • Choose a car with a higher kerb height to make getting in and out less stressful on the spine.
  • Depressing the clutch increases the pressure on your back so choose an automatic to avoid this.
  • Power steering also significantly reduces the load on the spine.

Driving can give you...

  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Eyestrain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Wrist pain
  • Elbow pain
  • Back pain
  • Bottom ache
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain
  • Foot and ankle pain

Is the car the right fit for you?

Sometimes the design of the car itself can lead to back problems. If you have to drive particularly long distances, check out the cabin and layout of the controls with the four tests set out below.

If the car can pass these four simple tests then there is a good chance that it is suitable for the particular driver. By using these tests a prospective buyer can make an informed choice of car and hopefully avoid "driver’s back pain".

The four tests

    1. The praying test
      The driver places both hands together, pointing forwards. If the steering wheel is not offset then the driver should be pointing straight at the centre of the wheel. The danger of having an offset wheel is that most drivers tend to rotate in the middle of the spine to compensate for its position, producing long term back strain.
    2. The fist test
      With the seat in the normal driving position make a fist with left hand keeping the thumb to the side of the index finger. It should be possible to insert the fist between the crown of the head and the roof of the car.

If it is only just possible to insert the flat of the hand between the roof and head then there is insufficient headroom. The danger of having too little headroom is that the driver may compensate for the lack of height by slouching in the seat, which puts a strain on the spine and thighs.

    1. The look down test
      With both hands placed evenly on the steering wheel look down at the legs. It should be possible to see equal amounts of both legs between the arms. Frequently the left leg will be visible but the right leg will be obscured by the right arm, which may indicate that the shoulder girdle is rotated to the left in relation to the pelvis.
    2. The right leg test
      This test should be performed after driving the car for a short while. Once again, look down and examine the position of the right leg. It is elevated above the level of the left or had it fallen out towards the edge of the seat? Is the right foot roughly in line with the thigh as it should be, or has it had to come across towards the centre of the car?

When driving

Car seats can be adjusted to suit your posture but make sure that you always:

      • Keep your seat reasonably upright, leaning backwards only at a slight angle.
      • Keep the headrest adjusted so that the centre of the headrest is level with your eyes. Don’t set the headrest too low as this can allow more serious injury in an accident.
      • When getting in, sit first then swing your legs into the car. When you get out, move the seat back before swinging your legs out.
      • Do you "ride the clutch", resting your foot in the air? No wonder your ankles of calf muscles hurt!

To relax, raise your shoulders to your ears breathing in, then lower them as your breathe out. You may want to do this at every red traffic light, or major junction.

Avoid reaching behind to get bags from the rear seat. Don't be lazy. Get out and open the door.

Be careful when loading and unloading. Lift correctly.

Avoid lifting unnecessary weights. Get help to change a tyre.

Sit with arms gently bent at the elbow to the wheel and don't lean forward out of the seat.

Wear a seat belt and make sure it is properly adjusted. Make sure children also have appropriate seat belts and cushions.

Remember

      • Prevention is better than cure.
      • Sit properly - drive relaxed.
      • Osteopaths can advise on posture.
      • Osteopaths treat neck and back pain- and a great many other things as well, if your problems don't resolve with the above advice, or are more complex, consult an osteopath.
      • If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a road accident, osteopathy can help relieve the pain of injury, especially whiplash-type injuries.
      • Osteopaths are often asked by solicitors to write medical-legal reports on accident victims, to help them claim compensation.

Visiting an Osteopath

When you visit an osteopath for the first time a full case history will be taken and you will be given an examination.

You will normally be asked to remove some of your clothing and to perform a simple series of movements. The Osteopath will then use his or her highly developed sense of touch, called palpation, to identify any points of weakness or excessive strain throughout the body.

The Osteopath may need additional investigations such as x-ray or blood tests. This will allow a full diagnosis and suitable treatment plan to be developed with you. Osteopathy is patient centred, which means the treatment is geared to you as an individual.

Osteopathy and patient protection

Osteopaths are trained to recognise and treat many causes of pain. Osteopathy is an established system of diagnosis and manual treatment, which is recognised by the British Medical Association as a discrete clinical discipline.

For the last sixty years, osteopaths have worked within a system of voluntary regulation that set standards of training and practice.

In 1993, osteopathy became the first major complementary health care profession to be accorded statutory recognition under the 1993 Osteopath's Act. This has culminated in the opening of the Statutory Register of Osteopaths by the General Osteopathic Council in May 1998. Only those practitioners able to show that they have been in safe and competent practice of osteopathy will be allowed onto the register and in the future all osteopaths will be trained to the same high rigorous standards.

All osteopaths will need to have medical malpractice insurance and to follow a strict code of conduct.

Patients will have the same safeguards as when currently they consult a doctor or dentist.

If you have other questions that we have not answered here, don't hesitate to contact us!.