Take the pain out of driving

Health and safety | May 2017

Male car driver with back painDon’t let back pain spoil your journey

With more than 1 in 10 of us spending between half and one hour a day commuting by car¹, back pain is an unwelcome driving companion for many. Often this pain can be avoided by taking the time to make a few crucial adjustments before you set off, says Laura Milnes, our Head of Ergonomics.

7 Steps to reducing back pain

Take the time to familiarise yourself with the many adjustments in your car (e.g. seat, steering wheel), then follow these 7 steps to find the most comfortable driving position:

1. Raise the seat as high as is comfortable to improve your vision of the road
Check you have adequate clearance from the roof and maximum vision of the road.

2. Move the seat forwards until you can easily fully depress the clutch and accelerator pedals
Adjust the seat height as necessary to give good pedal control.

3. Adjust the seat tilt angle so that your thighs are supported along the length of the cushion
Avoid pressure behind the knees.

4. Adjust the back rest so it provides continuous support along the length of your back and is in contact up to shoulder height
Avoid reclining the seat too far as this can cause excessive forward bending of the head and neck and you may feel yourself sliding forwards on the cushion.

5. Adjust the lumbar support to give even pressure along the length of the back rest
Ensure the lumbar support ‘fits’ your back, and is comfortable with no pressure points or gaps.

6. Adjust the steering wheel for easy reach
Check for thigh/knee clearance when using the pedals. Ensure the dashboard display is in full view and not obstructed.

7. Adjust the head restraint to ensure the risk of injury is reduced in the event of a car accident

Repeat stages 1-7 and fine tune as necessary.

Human spine – back pain from drivingAnd don’t forget to take a break!

A good driving position can reduce unnecessary discomfort and back problems. But any posture, no matter how good it is, can cause discomfort if it is held for too long – so you should also take regular breaks.

The Highway Code recommends taking a break of at least 15 minutes from driving, every two hours. This should be the maximum length of time you drive without a break, and on each break, get out of your car, walk around and stretch.

¹ Source: British Chiropractic Association