Top Tips For Driving With Back Pain

Have you ever found yourself driving along, having started your journey completely devoid of discomfort, only for your trip to suddenly trigger a nauseating amount of pain?

It’s not your vehicle that’s at fault. Nearly all modern cars are designed to provide sumptuous levels of refinement and comfort. It’s highly unlikely to be the road surface either, as car suspension is tailored towards smoothing those bumps out and creating a soft ride.

So, why does doing something as simple as driving trigger back pain, even though it’s not exactly a strenuous activity? The answer is simple, although the source of discomfort can be easy to overlook.

It’s you.

We aren’t saying that you therefore moan too much, or you should quit travelling. Your body – just like anyone’s body – is subject to different aspects that can inflame old injuries or muscle and joint ailments. 

Driving for long periods of time exposes the body to many different forces – such as acceleration, sudden stops, and vibrations from the road. This constant range of irritants can easily trigger your underlying pain sources.

It can take only one emergency stop, a swerve to avoid an animal in the road, or a few seconds of fast acceleration, to set off a domino effect that brings your chronic pain into the journey.

Driving also requires the use of your feet to control the car’s pedals, instead of being used to stabilize and support your lower body as they normally would while sitting. This can apply extra pressure on your back, which can lead into a flurry of torment and discomfort.

However, being able to drive and travel remains hugely important for modern daily life. Your pain shouldn’t stop you from being able to commute, travel for the holidays, or go on vacation. 

We can help you conquer your pain with physical therapy, but if you don’t have time for physical therapy sessions before hitting the road, then here are my 6 tips to help drivers with back pain…

Top Tips To Help With Back Pain When Driving

  • Adjust Your Mirrors

Make sure your mirrors are properly positioned, so you don’t have to twist or move your body in order to see out of them properly. 

You should only have to move your eyes to be able to see out of your mirrors. By removing the need for constantly twisting your back and turning your neck, you aren’t stressing your muscles and therefore lower the risks of triggering any back pain. 

  • Get Comfortable

Something that starts out as a small irritation can quickly grow into unbearable pain. So, before you start your journey, even if it is a short one, take a moment to get comfortable.

Adjust your seat properly. This will make sure you don’t have to turn awkwardly and strain your body. To ensure you set it properly, put your hand at the 12 o’clock position and reach the steering wheel with only a slight bend in the elbow.

It’s really important to make sure that you are comfortable. Don’t try and rush the process. Find your sweet spot and work around it. You’ll thank yourself later. 

  • Use a Towel for Support

Basic car seats don’t normally support the curve of your back (which is vital when you are suffering from back pain). So, if you are in need of additional support, roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back.  

This will help you to maintain good posture and prevent back pain in the long run.

  • Cruise Control

If your car has cruise control, use it when you can – on long stretches of road when it’s quiet with no traffic. 

While using it, place your feet on the floor so your legs form a 90-degree angle and gently push them down into the floor. 

This will help naturally support your spine and put you in a neutral position without having to press down on the pedal constantly.

  • Take Breaks

If you are driving for more than an hour, stop and take a break. Stopping around every hour or so will help to reduce stiffness and ease tension. 

When you take a break, do some gentle twists to loosen the body up. If your neck and shoulders are feeling tense – try shrugging and rolling your shoulders back and forth, then rolling your neck from side to side.

  • Exercise Regularly

Adding exercise into your routine, even just 2-3 times a week, will help you release tension, strengthen your back muscles, and help maintain and healthy posture. Cardio exercises like cycling, walking and swimming are great for overall fitness, and weights are perfect for improving muscle strength.

Extra Information For Travelling During COVID-19 Lockdown

The upcoming holiday season and receding COVID-19 restrictions means that travelling will soon be open to everyone again. Going on that long drive to see family and friends, or taking that much needed vacation, will soon become a safe reality.

However, while it’s tempting to jump straight into your car and head for the open highway, there’s a few extra things to prepare and organise that will help keep you safe and pain free.

It’s important to remember that, by staying in the same position for any length of time, travelling puts extra pressure on your joints and muscles, which can lead to chronic pain. Remember to take some painkillers, but don’t get straight back behind the wheel after taking pills.

Some painkillers can cause drowsiness and driving is not advisable if you are struggling to concentrate. For a safe journey, you need to be fully aware. If you are struggling, then take a break. It’s always better to be slightly behind schedule rather than early for the pearly gates.

If you are renting a car, choose a vehicle that allows enough space to get comfortable. Going for the cheaper option and selecting a small car may seem tempting, but you won’t thank yourself later. 

You shouldn’t need to spend extra to rent a Rolls-Royce, either. Just go for something that isn’t cramped and likely to cause back issues. Doing some research on each car that the rental company has should prepare you for your journey.

Regardless of distance, you should plan your journey with rest areas along the route. This will allow you to stop and use the bathroom, and also stretch your legs or grab a drink.

It’s very important to remain hydrated during the long drive. By having a regular intake of fluid, the hydration will flush your muscles and prevent increased pain and stiffness. 

It’s also important to take an actual rest during your rest breaks. It’s easy to feel the need to push on, but doing so can bring on physical exhaustion. Being tired will also exacerbate your pain and cause mental anguish.

If you have someone travelling with you as a companion, and they can also drive, it’s a great idea to share the driving with them. This gives you the opportunity to rest, if your travelling companion has the relevant driving license and insurance, of course.

A further plan is to take out some extra breakdown cover. If you strike something in the road and suffer a flat tire, or something goes wrong with the car, you don’t want to inflame your back pain by bending and lifting heavy weight – in the form of a spare wheel, or jacking the car up.

This is inviting back pain to strike.  

If you have issues with a vehicle breakdown, get some help from an expert, and ensure that you still complete your journey without issue. This is where the breakdown services step in. Modern cars break down, too. Keep yourself covered!

Put these simple tips in place to lessen your low back pain, Click Here to Schedule your appointment now!

How long is it before you have to travel? We could be able to help you with some physical therapy sessions to tackle your back pain before commencing your journey.

My clinic specializes in treating back pain. That type of dull ache or sharp pain where you get so frustrated that you feel your only choice is to completely stop what you are doing and reach for the pain medication?

It’s completely normal to then wonder how long you’ll have to wait before things get better. How long will you have to stop your life to wait for the pain to go away? How long before you get some back pain relief? 

This is where my physical therapists come in.

They can help to craft a bespoke physical therapy treatment service that will bring you back to life. Our therapy is non injurious and based on decades of experience in the physical therapy sector.

You can get in touch through our contact page, or pay our various clinics a visit. 

We look forward to hearing from you!


Some of the content in this blog was originally published on back in March 2019.

Andrew Vertson