driving back pain

How Driving Can Cause Back Pain and What to Do About It

Drivers who travel long distances or navigate crowded roads often complain of back or neck pain. If you are experiencing aches, pain, stiffness, numbness, or decreased mobility after driving, contact Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine to receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Because our physiatrists are trained in holistic, nonsurgical methods of relieving pain and restoring function, we offer a broad range of therapies, from customized physical therapy to acupuncture, from epidural injections to platelet-rich plasma (PRP). In many cases, we recommend a combination of therapies for optimal results.

So Many Drivers, So Much Back Pain

In addition to the usual commuters, shoppers, etc., some people are now driving more due to their increased health concerns about public transportation. Others are driving more as they become rideshare drivers, either as a full-time occupation or as a way to enhance their income. Whatever your reasons for driving, it is important to understand how driving, even in today’s increasingly comfortable cars, may be giving you back pain.

Are You Causing Yourself Unnecessary Pain While Driving?

Many patients who come to our offices for help don’t realize that ingrained driving habits may be causing them a large degree of discomfort. These habits include:

  • Sitting incorrectly: slouching, leaning to one side, twisting to reach for or lift things while watching the road, sitting with a fat wallet in your back pocket
  • Not taking breaks from driving often enough to stretch and change positions to improve circulation and prevent stiffness

Unavoidable Challenges of Driving

Regardless of your particular habits, some aspects of driving that may be bad for your back are unavoidable. These include sitting in a more or less stationary position, using your foot (or feet if you drive a manual-transmission vehicle) so they cannot rest on the ground to stabilize your back, and absorbing the constant low-frequency vibrations of the vehicle. Also, there is also the possibility that you may be involved in a traffic accident through no fault of your own, which results in back or neck injuries. A minor fender bender or even a sudden stop can cause whiplash.

Pre-Existing Conditions May Predispose You to Back Pain When Driving

Previous injuries or a current illness can make you more vulnerable to back pain. These include:

  • Previous accident in which your back or neck was injured
  • Osteoporosis and/or a compression fracture
  • Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia
  • Herniated disc or pinched nerve
  • Scoliosis, kyphosis, or some other spinal abnormality

If you already suffer back pain from one of the above, it’s essential to do all you can to protect your back while driving.

Steps You Can Take to Avoid Back Pain Due to Driving

In addition to watching your posture and stopping regularly to give your back a chance to relax and use different muscles, here are some possible measures to assist you in making yourself more comfortable while driving:

  • Sit and swivel to get into your vehicle
  • Use lumbar or neck support
  • Take over-the-counter painkillers before a long ride if you have an underlying condition
  • Use appropriate pillows, bolsters, or headrests
  • Alter your steering wheel grip from time to time (“9 and 3” is recommended for safety)
  • If possible, use cruise control to rest your legs and ease pressure on your back
  • Use an ice pack, heat pack that plugs into your car, or heated seat (if available)
  • Make sure your mirrors are properly adjusted to avoid moving your neck awkwardly

If you have persistent back pain associated with driving, it’s time to get in touch with the talented physiatrists at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Contact Our Experienced Back Pain Doctors Today

Our professional staff is committed to making you feel better as quickly as possible. Don’t allow driving to become a painful chore. We will help you get back into shape and enjoy the freedom and sense of empowerment driving can provide. Contact us so we can get started.