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Back Stories

Your Commute Doesn’t Have to Kill Your Back

Your commute vs your back photo by bk1bennett / CC 2.0

Unfortunately, commuting is a way of life for most of us. The “average American commuter” spends a good two hours a day driving to and from work, and, “Even worse: Roughly 40 minutes of your weekly drive time is spent gritting your teeth and strangling your steering wheel while stuck in traffic, according to a Texas A&M University study,” said Men’s Health. If you weren’t already dealing with back issues, stepping into the car every day could lead to them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Applying these tips can keep your commute from being a killer.

Sitting correctly

Making sure you’re sitting at the proper angle while driving can help make the difference between a painful ride and one that allows you to get on with your day without anguish. “Be sure you sit…close to the wheel so you don’t have to stretch,” said Prevention. “Extending your leg puts your back in a compromised position, but many people don’t even realize they’re doing it.” You’ll also want to sit with your back fully against the seat back for maximum support.

Seat heater

Heat may help to provide relief to lower back pain by increasing the blood supply to the affected area. Turning on your heat seater while you’re in the car, especially for long periods, may help counteract the negative effects of sitting. Sadly, it won’t do much for the traffic.

Adjustable seats

When considering a new car today, many people today look for things like navigation, a moon roof, and hi-tech features like lane assist and backup cameras. But, if you have chronic back pain or an often-sore back, another feature should be high on your list: an adjustable seat—and the more adjustable, the better.

“There are several seat adjustments you can make to sit more comfortably in the driver’s seat,” said Your Mechanic. “Many cars have fore and aft seat adjustments on a slider, recline adjustments, height adjustments, and even lumbar back support adjustments. Some manufacturers include a tilt function to support the back of your thighs, while others offer an adjustable distance from the seat to the back of your knees.”

Lumbar support is key because it can help with back pain by helping support the spine’s natural curve. If your car doesn’t offer it, a small back pillow can substitute.

Adjust your steering wheel and pedals too

Cars that also have adjustable pedals and a steering wheel that can be moved in and out and up and down can make it easier to find a comfortable position that doesn’t put stress on your back.

“When your arms are stressed just holding onto the wheel, the tension extends into your back and causes pain, especially for those with back trouble,” said Your Mechanic.

Build-in stretch time

During a long drive, plan stretch breaks to give your muscles some relief. “Lift your shoulders as high as you can—as though you’re trying to touch them to your ears. Then roll your shoulders in a circular motion to loosen muscles in your upper back,” said Men’s Health. “This rolling motion lengthens and stretches the muscles, which relieves tension.”

Another good stretch decreases tension and pain in your back and shoulders. “Lift your right elbow to eye level, and reach with your right hand out over your steering wheel in a semi-circle until you’re touching your left shoulder,” they said. “Now squeeze your elbow toward your shoulder, hold it for a second, and relax. Do the same with your left arm.

Watch how you get in and out

Even if your car ride is perfectly comfortable, getting in and out can be hazardous. If you’re used to entering and exiting the car one leg at a time, you may be putting undue pressure on your spine. A better option for getting in is keeping both feet on the floor, sitting down, and then bring your legs up and over. Reverse the motion to exit.

Take a walk

Going straight from your car to your desk chair can be rough on your back. If you can build in a short stroll before you have to sit down again, you can give your muscles a chance to relax and your spine to decompress.

Choose the right car

If you’re in the market for a new car (or maybe it’s time to be!), and you are living with back pain, you may want to give careful consideration to how different cars stack up when it comes to comfort. Features like power-folding seats and lift gates can be helpful, as can memory features that allow you to access your unique settings instead of trying to find the perfect combination every time you need to go somewhere; this is key if you aren’t the only one driving your car. Car Story can provide info on some of the best car brands to look for if back pain is an issue.

For more information about maintaining a healthy back, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.

For more information, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments for chronic back pain, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.

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