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How to Avoid Pain When Driving

Monday, May 07, 2018

Many of us sit way too much and driving is one of the main culprits. Sitting for long periods in the same position causes muscle imbalance or a short period of time. They shorten, or lengthen, become weak and fatigued. They grow big knots too to compensate, which can ache. We become too good at it, so that when we want to move we don’t have the support from our muscles anymore. Misaligned hips and spines can occur due to the imbalances making us vulnerable to strain and wear and tear.

Let me tell you about my own personal experience

I have, for almost a year now, been commuting to work in my Corsa which takes around 40 minutes each way. Doesn’t seem to bad, does it? But oh my, let me tell you of the changes I have felt in my body that have accumulated, and I’m only 34.
  • My left leg especially my hip and the sole of my foot is getting stiff and twingey
  • My right shoulder is getting tighter (not helped by work)
  • My lower back – it’s not sore or stiff really but I have become more aware of it. I might describe it too as a bit of a twinge
  • Neck – ugh

Nothing too dreadful but being someone who is fairly fit and otherwise look after myself (red wine is still good for you, right?) and I think I have pretty good body awareness, I’m not happy with this! So therefore, I am doing lots of things consistently to improve it. Thankfully I don’t have a desk job, unlike many of you = double trouble. But I do use the laptop occasionally for admin (yawn). C’est la vie. 

Here are a few things that I do, consistently, to avoid postural strains:

1. I'm mindful of my posture. The obvious number 1. Good posture is key to anything we do. If we are able to align ourselves with the magic of proprioception (our mind’s eye picture of our body in space) then muscles can be balanced, they can ‘fire up’ when needed and importantly ‘calm down’ when not needed

2. Stretches. I stretch a lot. Every muscle group in every direction that I feel is needed

3. Mobilise. Our joints need to stay lubricated and that is not going to happen by sitting in your favourite position all day

4.Strengthen and load. Our bones are tissues filled with fluid that need a certain amount of load to keep the healthy, in the direction that is appropriate to the bone. Not too much, not too little. And often.

I am in the lucky position that I know how the body works and know loads of exercises to complete the points above. Not all exercises suit everyone to begin with and it helps if you have a practitioner (well, me) there to guide you through stretches, postures and movements so that you feel them work, feel things happen so that positive changes can occur.

Driving Position

Let’s think about your posture when driving (you can apply this to your desk too. Or even better get a standing desk. Standing car?) Tune into it, do a little body map in your minds eye:

Are you slumped?  Is your torso lopsided?  Do you constantly keep and arm in one position the whole time – that arm that gives you an ache in the shoulder for no apparent reason?  Are you able to be more balanced form side to side? Getting yourself completely straight can be difficult in a car. Cars are not designed specifically for our individual shapes. But we can all do a few things to help our frames out when we are forced to sit.

Try these for a more comfortable position

  • Ensure your bum is right at the back of your seat. Shuffle it right back there so you feel you get more of a neutral lumbar spine. This means you should feel your lower back, or the small of your back is gently arched. It should feel good. Sitting with your lower back rounded for ages is really bad for it. After doing this you might feel you need to move your car seat a little forward so that you can reach the pedals. Perhaps some hamstring stretches would be useful!?

  • Get some length into your spine – this is tricky if you’re already very tall in a small car. Allowing the back of your neck to open and lengthen by lifting the skull up (but not looking up) helps to put your neck in a friendlier position. You might also become aware of your lower belly automatically pull in when you do this – bonus ab work-out there.

  • On that thread, why not have a mini ab work out when you’re waiting at a set of traffic lights? See how far you can draw your belly button to your spine, see how long you can hold it for but still breathe!

  • Arms. Try changing the position every now and then to give a little variety in your posture. Gently press your hands into the wheel, can you feel your mid-back muscles work? Hold and release a few times – again, only when waiting at lights! I don’t want any crashes occurring! Shrug your shoulders up, down and around. Hear the crunches? Nice.

  • Take plenty of breaks. If you’re on a long run somewhere (sunny maybe? A beach or a nice mountain somewhere..sun….) get out and move as much as you can. Your body will thank you for it.

When you are finally home, sit differently. Sit on the floor, cross your legs, then cross them the other way. Fidget, stretch, breathe! Do yoga, Pilates or something regularly to counteract the chair strains.

Be mindful and gentle too.

I would love to go through any stretches or exercises with you that you are not sure about. Just book an appointment to learn more about your body. But remember, variety of movement is key!

Take Some Time to Look After Your Back

To make an appointment call Linda and the team at Bearsden Osteopaths on 0141 942 0629. You can also book an appoinment online at   |     0141 942 0629