As traveling increases during the holiday season, it's important to recognize that everyone knows that getting into a car accident can cause whiplash, neck pain, and even low back pain. So please be careful on the roads out there! But did you know that driving can cause low back pain all by itself? Even without crashing into anything?
It is well-established that a sedentary lifestyle can cause low back pain and even earlier death. Naturally, when driving or riding in a car, we're prolonging the amount of time we sit and reducing the amount of time we're standing or being active. Additionally, car seats rarely allow you to sit properly with the correct low back and neck curvature, so usually you'll end up slumped in your low back and neck with your shoulders rounded forward. This posture increases the pressure and load in the ligaments and discs of the low back and neck. So simply by sitting in a car seat, we're inviting trouble!
This is nothing new. Even back in in the late 1980s, research studies were beginning to correlate driving with low back pain and sciatica.
City bus drivers also face potential low back pain due to the amount of time that they remain seated, as well as the whole body vibration that they experience when bouncing around large vehicles.
Truckers also face potential low back pain, and not only because of the time spent in the cab. Often, truckers will have to jump out of their truck in order to unload the back of the truck. Unless the trucker is able to walk around for a few minutes prior to lifting anything heavy, it is possible that his/her low back will not be stable enough to withstand the pressures and load of lifting immediately after prolonged sitting.
In order to prevent car-related low back pain:
- Keep your car seat as upright as possible.
- Make sure that your low back is not slumped. Use a cushion or lumbar support if necessary. Often, pre-installed lumbar supports are not sufficient or are poorly placed for your body.
- Sit with your rear end as far back in the seat as possible, to avoid additional low back slumping.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you drive. This keeps your shoulders back and helps maintain proper neck posture.
- Lean your head back against your head rest, if possible. This eases the tension on the muscles at the front of your neck. If your seat is as upright as possible, you'll still easily be able to see the road. If your seat is reclined, it is more difficult to rest your head and neck, which may well cause tension headaches.
- On long trips, stop frequently and walk around your car to re-engage your back and leg muscles.
- Don't be upset if you have to park a long way from the front door at shops, stores, and malls. A little extra walking can only help stimulate your low back and leg muscles.
- Make sure to keep your spine neutral as you get into and out of your car.
- Don't keep your hands at 10 and 2! That's no longer recommended. Try these tips instead.
- Ask your chiropractor for more postural advice that's specific to your car and your situation.
Near the end of an excellent article about physicians and pain management by Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD, are these excellent nuggets, tips, and advice. If you have chronic pain or chronic inflammation (which can manifest as back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and many other conditions), it's well worth your time to scan through these tidbits.
Every Physician Should Have an Arsenal of Non-Toxic Options for Treating Chronic Pain
As a healthcare practitioner, I am regularly asked what patients can do for themselves at home. Many times, an application of heat, ice, or topical lotion can go a long way towards soothing tired muscles and relieving simple back pain. However, heat and ice have very different methods of action and are not always appropriate. It is important to realize that at certain times heat can actually make the problem worse by bringing additional swelling and inflammation to an already inflamed area.
My colleague Dr. Dan Sallee, DC, has created an easy reference diagram for the usage of heat and ice. Visit his chiropractic website and blog, or better yet, if you're in the Kansas City area, visit his office!
At first glance, climbing into a car doesn't seem very difficult at all. You open the door, put one leg in, and just, well, sort of fall into your seat. Not too difficult, and probably not worthy of a chiropractic blog post.
But what if you have back pain?
People with low back pain have a very difficult time balancing on one leg while reaching the other leg out. This lack of low back stabilization causes pain and difficulty in a very simple everyday task. In fact, I see low back pain patients everyday who list this activity as one of their most difficult to perform.
So, there is a better way to get into a car if you have low back pain:
There's a recent popular YouTube video that hits several healthy chiropractic high points: Vitamin D, activity, the dangers of sitting. It's fun and worth your time!
Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
All images used are under Creative Commons license.
Although every effort has been made to provide an accurate description of our chiropractic care and its benefits, the information given on this website and blog is not intended to be, nor should it be interpreted as, medical advice for any condition.
If you have any questions regarding your condition, you should seek the help of Dr. Johnson in person, so that he may properly assess your condition.
This blog is provided by Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria, PC, proudly located in Peoria, IL.