How to prevent back pain when driving

Back pain is something that impacts many of us, with the NHS reporting that back pain is the ‘leading cause of disability’, affecting almost 10% of us. There are many forms of back injury out there and, unfortunately, just as many causes. Driving a car is certainly one of the most common ones, with everything from poor posture to driving too much exasperating the issue. The last thing any of us want is for the joy of driving, perhaps in your beloved Ford car, to be spoiled because of annoying back pain. So, in this guide, we are going to take a look at how to prevent back pain when driving, as well as offering a few tips for how to avoid it altogether.

Make sure your car is roadworthy

Having a car that is up to scratch is very important, thankfully not something to worry about when browsing our range of Ford vehicles. Daniel Singleton from the website Back On Site, has had to deal with chronic lower back pain throughout his life and advises the following: “Firstly, make sure your vehicle is roadworthy and has good suspension and shock absorbing qualities to minimise the level of whole-body vibrations you are exposed to. When driving, you are exposed to whole-body vibrations that are absorbed from the vehicle which add extra pressure onto your already compressed spine.”

Adjust your sitting position

woman driving

Not sitting correctly is one of the leading causes of back pain so when we are out on the roads, it’s vitally important that we make sure we are doing the right things to help prevent injury and aggravation. Adjusting your sitting position will be a great step to take and this can take a couple of different forms. We spoke to Paul Hadley from the car blog Motor Verso, who offered his suggestions for preventing back pain while driving:

“For me, it goes without saying to spend some time making sure the driver seat and steering wheel are correctly set up for yourself before driving. Make sure the chair is the correct distance from the pedals, allowing you to access all the pedals without stretching. Next, ensure that the angle of the back of the chair is upright enough to support your back and close enough to the steering wheel so you can easily reach.”

As Paul mentions, simple things such as adjusting your back rest so that your back makes contact with it from your bottom up to your shoulders, and not reclining too far so not to put undue strain on your head and neck, will really help your cause.

Gavin Routledge, Chief Back Officer at Active X Backs – a back pain clinic – also advises: “Make sure your bottom is as high as your knees. Having your bottom lower than your knees creates a strain on your lower back, which, over repeated trips - or just one long drive - can be enough to result in lower back strain.”

Gavin also commented to us about when is the right time to consult a specialist regarding back pain: “If your back pain doesn't recover overnight or if it keeps recurring, go and see someone who specialises in back problems.”

Utilise lumbar support

Connected with the proper position of your car seat is utilising lumbar support – something available in seats of many vehicles within the Ford range – this can really help those who are prone to back issues. First and foremost, make sure you are not sitting on your wallet or anything like that and then consider supporting the small of your back with something designed to help. As Paul from Motor Verso says: “If the chair has adjustable lumbar support, make sure this has been configured so that the base of your spine is well supported.”

Daniel from Back on Site adds: “Sit so your spine is in an ‘S’ shaped curve rather than a ‘C’ shaped curve (you can use a lumbar support cushion to help you do this if your driver’s seat lacks sufficient lumbar support).”

Use heated seats

man driving a car

If your car happens to have heated seats, it’s definitely a good idea to make good use of them in your quest to prevent back pain. Heat has the great benefit of relaxing tight joints and muscles, helping blood flow to the area applied to, and therefore relieving pain. So next time you are out on a long drive and perhaps are starting to feel a little uncomfortable, consider turning that seat on. Barbara McLullich from Back Pain Blog – the personal journey of a chronic back pain sufferer – offers this advice: “I am a true advocate of heat while travelling so if your car does not have heated seats then buy a heat pad to pop on your back. You can buy these from a chemist and most last up to eight hours. Also, have some heat pads ready to use after your journey.”

Be careful getting in and out of the car

Another important thing to consider is the simple fact of how you get in and out of the car as this can have ramifications for your back health. Explaining what to be aware of and how you can help yourself, Barbara from Back Pain Blog says: “Pay attention to how you get in and out of the car. Sit down facing the door and swing both legs into the car. Getting out is the reverse. If this is too uncomfortable to do, you can buy swivel cushions to help you turn around.”

Ice your back

If your back pain relates to a deeper physical injury instead of stiffness or muscle spasms, sometimes icing your back with a cold compress can bring relief. Ice therapy for your back is normally the most effective in the immediate aftermath of injuring yourself so if you happen to have hurt you back out on the road or before you need to drive, consider applying an ice pack  against your back while you are sitting, as this will help numb the pain as well as reduce inflammation.

Take regular breaks

stop sign

Back pain tends to crop up when driving long distances, so if you are someone who regularly drives a fair way for work or are planning an upcoming road trip, make sure that you take regular breaks along the way. The Highway Code recommends that drivers stop every two hours for at least fifteen minutes. So, including frequent stops at service stations to stretch your legs, go to the toilet, and change position will allow you to move your back and hips around, providing for a more comfortable journey. And if you are travelling with a companion, try to share the load a little so that you can have a break while they drive.

Daniel from Back on Site agrees that taking breaks is a very important tactic to utilise: “When you are sat down for long periods behind the wheel your spinal discs become compressed and your core muscles remain inactive. This causes both to weaken and your back gets less support as a result.

“When driving long distances, it’s important to take regular breaks if you want to stay comfortable. So, try to schedule a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving you do. And when you do stop, get out of your vehicle, move around and have a stretch. This will get your blood pumping again and help to relieve the pressure and tension that has built up in your back.”

Tips for avoiding back pain while driving

  • Make sure your car is road worthy
  • Adjust your sitting position
  • Utilise lumbar support
  • Use heated seats
  • Be careful getting in and out of the car
  • Ice your back
  • Take regular breaks

We hope that these tips have been helpful and that they will go some way in making your driving experience a little more comfortable, especially if you currently suffer from back pain. Of course, there comes a time when seeing a specialist is required so if you think your discomfort might be more serious make sure to seek help from a doctor or physiotherapist.

Now that your back pain is a thing of the past, go ahead and browse our range of exciting Ford cars to enjoy the best possible driving experience.