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How To Prevent Back Pain Driving

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Published: 4 Jun 2013      

Driving is a necessary part of the day, whether it’s a quick 5 minute journey to the shops or you may be doing several hours every single day. Either way have you ever considered that your car seat could be a contributor to your back pain? 


 When you buy a car there are several things that you probably looked at including; the make, model, colour and spec including safety and acceleration and possibly miles to the gallon.  But how much time did you spend ensuring the car seat was right for you?

Having tried and tested many car seats we have discovered a few core potentially troublesome areas. Small adjustments can make a big difference.

If you are thinking of buying a new car these are points you should bear in mind before purchasing:

 1. Pedals

Are the pedals aligned straight ahead so that you are not twisting your foot and leg to reach them?  Offset pedals puts more pressure on your leg, hips and back, which can cause pain over time. 

Another area to consider is the height of the pedals.  For example, is the clutch pedal low enough so you are not flexing your foot too much or having to lift your leg to depress it?  Some cars have the clutch pedal positioned closer to the drivers seat than the brake and accelerator. This can result in the need to lift the left leg to access the clutch. Again over time, repeating this action, especially with stop/start town driving can lead to problems.

 2. Steering Wheel

Can you reposition it up/down, forwards/back so that it can be moved into the right position for you.  If you reach your arm out straight ahead of you, the wrist should be resting on the top of the steering wheel with your shoulders relaxed.  Any alterations to this will put undue strain on your head, neck, shoulders and upper back.

 3. Head Rest

Is it adjustable? It needs to be positioned so that it supports the back of your head without pushing it forwards and putting strain on your head and neck?

 4. Car Seat

Can you raise the height of the seat and alter the angle to seat is at.  Ideally you want an angle of 110- 130 degrees through your hips.  This keeps strain on your back to a minimum.  It can take a bit of playing around to get these angles right between the seat base and back but it is worth the effort of a comfortable journey.

Now that the angles are right the next thing to consider is the lumbar (lower back) support. 

There are many makes of car that do not have any lumbar curve in the seat.  This can be better than those that have a badly placed one, as you can then easily add a lumbar support for your needs. 

Some of the badly fitting car seats have lumbar curves that sit too low into the back of the pelvis in an area known as the sacrum. This pushes the pelvis and sacrum forwards causing the lower back to arch unnaturally.  Such positioning can result in lower backache (the opposite to the intention).

Some cars have adjustable lumbar supports that inflate/deflate and can be moved so that they fully support the lower back in the right place.  The correct position for lumbar support is inline with the natural hollow towards the base of your back. Please check your car for the adjustments you have available.

Now that you have made all the changes you needed sit in your seat and make sure that your mirrors are still in the correct position.  Once you have done this you can use them as a reminder.  If you find part way through your journey that you have to look up and reach to see clearly, you will know that you have slipped forwards in your seat and it is time to re-adjust yourself in the seat.  If you experience back pain sit in your car correctly and evaluate how the areas we have mentioned above feel to be sure that you have the support in all the right areas for your whole body.

Remember no matter how well your seat is set up you still need to keep your body moving.  On long drives take a break every 1 – 1 ½ hours, even if you just get up have a short walk and set off again.  By avoiding prolonged pressure on your back you could be avoiding the groans and pains as you try and straighten up and uncurl yourself out of the car when you reach your destination!

We hope you found this information useful in giving you a pain free journey.

To see how to set up your car seat correctly, watch our video at:


To your health

Lorna & Rachael