How To Stop Back Pain When Driving Long Distances 

man with back pain in a car driving

Is driving causing you back pain?

Does it get worse the longer you drive?

Back pain whilst driving is extremely common, the chances are the majority of us have experienced some form of discomfort of our own while on the road. 

There a few freer feeling than hitting the open road with an exciting destination in mind.

But driving with back pain isn’t fun for anyone. 

Heading out on the road shouldn’t be something you dread because you know pain is going to follow. 

Whether you’re on your commute, on a road trip or work as a driver you shouldn’t have to suffer every time you enter your vehicle. 

You may feel as if you won’t be able to drive anymore, but don’t give up just yet. 

There are often two simple causes to your back pain and with a few helpful tips you’ll be back on the road doing what you love. 

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What causes back pain whilst driving 

x ray of poor posture while driving causing back pain

More often than not the root to your back pain is poor posture and sitting for long periods of time. 

Our backs are designed to move, they don’t like being in a fixed position for any length of time. 

Those who tend to drive for more than 4 hours a day on a regular basis are more at risk of back pain. 

Whilst the car is moving your body will be experiencing the forces of the car, from speeding up and slowing down to swaying side to side. 

This can be particularly exaggerated if you have poor driving habits. 

If you’re speeding up around corners and breaking hard causing yourself to be thrown around the vehicle it’s only going to be bad for your back. 

These actions aren’t natural and will only put more strain on your back. 

Unfortunately the nature of long distance driving means you’ll be in the vehicle for a long time. 

But what we can improve is our posture and the way we tackle our long journeys. 

Poor posture and having your seat in the incorrect position can cause back pain in the shortest amount of time in the car.

How often do you get out of the car holding your back as it has seized up?

If it is a regular occurrence the chances are you’re not sitting in your car correctly. 

Best Driving Position For Back Pain

best posture for back pain while driving

The way you sit in a car has a huge impact on your comfort level and the amount of support that you receive. 

You want to make sure your sitting position protects your back instead of putting pressure on your body. 

There’s no one perfect driving position, it ultimately comes down to the individual. 

We’re all built differently which is why the car seat can be adjusted in so many different ways. 

Unfortunately this means a lot of people just don’t sit in the right position whilst driving.

But what you need to do is improve your poor posture otherwise your back pain will continue.  

If you follow these steps it should help you maximize your comfort and support:

Sit as close as comfortably possible to the steering wheel. This will stop you from slouching in your seat and help you reach the pedals easily. 

Sit at a slightly reclined position instead of completely upright. This will limit the strain on your spine putting less pressure on your discs and muscles. 

Keep your back aligned against the back of your seat with your head on the headrest. 

Keep your back pockets empty. Sitting on anything that’s in your pocket can throw your spine out of alignment. 

A lot of these steps are simply trial and error, you need to find out what is best for you. 

Tips for preventing back pain whilst driving

lumbar support on a chair

Riding in the car can be a real challenge for some people. 

If you follow these tips you shouldn’t fear long distance driving anymore:

Use Lumbar Support

This can be something as simple as a rolled up towel or buying a cushion that is specifically designed to support your back whilst driving. 

You just need to make sure it is properly placed at the small of your back. 

If you bend your knees higher than your hips you can take the pressure off your lower back creating additional support. 

Use Your Heated Seats

If you have a modern car the chances are you have heated seats, they’re great for warming you up on a cold day but that’s not their only benefit. 

Applying heat to your back whilst driving can help to loosen your muscles and joints which in turn can reduce your pain. 

If you don’t have heated seats it may be wise to buy a heated seat cover to go over your car seat. Heat pads can also help the journey significantly.

Use Cruise Control

This is another great feature of modern cars. Cruise control allows you to take your foot off the pedals and maintain a constant speed. 

Whilst using cruise control you can bend your legs and help support some of your body weight reducing the load on your back. 

It also gives you a nice break where you can move around a little if you start to feel any pain. 

Shift Your Position From Time To Time 

Now we’re not saying huge movements where you’re jumping around in your seat. 

Little amounts of movement every so often is better than sitting still, stretching the hamstrings a little or pumping your ankle to get the blood flowing. 

Please make sure you are being safe whilst moving, don’t do it if it is going to put you in danger. 

Take Regular Breaks

This is probably the best advice you can take. 

If you regularly get back pain, resting at regular intervals can drastically reduce your pain. 

You may just want to get to your destination as quickly as possible but we recommend that you should be taking a 15 minute break for every 2 hours of driving. 

When you’re out of the car make sure you’re moving about, have a little walk and stretch your muscles. 

Make Your Journey As Smooth As Possible

Take care whilst driving, bumps in the road can affect your spine which will increase your pain. 

Check your shock absorbers and tyres before a journey to make sure they can withstand the long trip.

Most importantly make sure you’re driving sensibly. If your back is sore it’s only going to get worse if you’re driving down country roads thinking you’re a race car driver. 

Tips for preventing back pain after driving 

man out of car still having back pain

Once you’re out of the car you may think that your pain will just go away. 

You may be tired after a long day and just want to go to bed particularly if you are driving the next day. 

The best thing to do after a long drive is to move about and give yourself some gentle exercise. 

We know it probably isn’t the first thing on your mind but after a long day of sitting your body doesn’t want to just sit right back down again. 

We recommend spending a little bit of time out of your car to continue to prevent your back pain. 

Something as simple as a little walk for 10 or 15 minutes will do you the power of good. 

A few stretches such as lunges and squats right after your journey can just help the body move again after being still for so long. 

Particularly if you regularly drive long distances, activities such as pilates or yoga will be hugely beneficial to you. 

They will help strengthen your core, increasing your back ability to withstand the pressure from driving for numerous hours. 

Exercising regularly and just keeping yourself in shape can be a great way to reduce your pain as your body will be more durable. 

When To Seek Help

physical therapy for back

These tips hopefully have helped your driving experience or at least reduced some of your pain. 

But sometimes home remedies and little tips to try at home and in your vehicle may not be enough. 

If you are experiencing a constant nagging pain in your back, it’s probably time to seek help. 

You shouldn’t have to just put up with it and if it has lasted a while the chances are now that it won’t go away on its own. 

Our team of friendly and highly trained physical therapists can help you. 

Physical therapy is one of the best methods in helping people find back pain relief from their pain.

If you don’t believe us or have never tried physical therapy before why not book in for our FREE 20 minute discovery session. 

In this session you will see one of our trained physical therapists and you will leave knowing exactly what’s going wrong whilst having a taster of physical therapy. 

In the meantime why not view our free guide on how to eliminate your back pain.

Here at Intecore we are passionate about helping you and we look forward to welcoming you into one of our clinics. 

Andrew Vertson
Latest posts by Andrew Vertson (see all)

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