Many of my patients spend hours a day commuting to work or driving for a living.
We know that sitting for long periods is damaging to the spine and can cause other health issues, but like with most things, there are steps that we can take to at least minimize the stress on our body.
Car manufacturers spend a lot of time and money trying to make their seats more comfortable and adjustable to different body types. Some companies do it better than others, but here are some suggestions to get the most comfortable driving position possible.
Many cars have Lumbar support adjustment. This is great because it allows you to have your lower back in a position of more comfort. The aim here is that when you sit, you want to encourage a curve in your lower back called the ‘lumbar lordosis’. This is the natural and safest position for you to be in at all times. Familiarise yourself with this control, if you have it, and adjust it so that you can feel some push in your lower back. It should feel like your belly button is being pushed forward. The biggest mistake I see is that people want to support their lumbar curve too low down. If your lumbar support control can go up and down also, make sure it is pushing at a level just above your hip bones, or approximately the level of your belly button.
The P-Plater, cruising Chapel street on a Saturday night with polished 19 inch wheels, and subwoofer barking, is more likely to have their lower back in a good position. People tend to think that the more upright they are, the better it is on their spine. This has been shown to be incorrect. The fact is that you are actually better off, whether in the car or office with your seat significantly reclined. There are two issues with this however. Firstly, the more you recline, the more stress you will place on your neck. Secondly, and quite importantly, you will need to be in control of your car and see where you are driving. I would recommend reclining to about 110 or 120 degrees.
Lastly, the commonsense rule to break up the drive holds true. If you are on a long drive it certainly helps to get out and stretch regularly or when safe to do so.