7 Ways to Prevent Back Pain While Driving

people preventing back pain while driving

Whether it’s a fun summer road trip or the daily commute to work, the grocery, the gym, and everywhere else on your busy schedule, we spend a lot of time sitting in our cars. This can easily lead to lower back pain while driving if you’re not taking the right precautions.

Today, we’re looking at ways to prevent back pain while driving and how you can avoid discomfort after prolonged periods sitting behind the wheel. With these methods, you can hit the open road and enjoy every minute without having to worry about how stiff you may be later.

What Causes Lower Back Pain While Driving?

You may not have considered it, but the causes of lower back pain while driving are more complex than you think. When the car is not in motion, there’s not much difference between that and sitting in a recliner at home. This is where poor posture comes into play. Poor posture while sitting in your car is most often the number one cause of back pain while driving.

What about when you’re not stopped, however? When the car is in motion, your body is actually experiencing different kinds of forces on it due to acceleration and deceleration. These forces put more pressure on the lower spine and your body as a whole, making pain or discomfort possible for those not actively practicing techniques to avoid back pain while driving.

Not all driving is for fun road trips or a short daily commute. Studies have shown that individuals who drive for a living may be at twice the risk of experiencing lower back pain and sciatica symptoms.

Additionally, when you’re driving and the car is in motion, you’re using your feet to push on the accelerator and brake pedals. This shifts how your feet are supporting your lower body, changing how pressure is handled on your lower spine, which could become a catalyst for back pain while driving. 

How to Prevent Back Pain While Driving

With so many things that could negatively impact you, is it possible to avoid back pain while driving? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Sometimes, the best method for how to relieve back pain while driving even starts before you ever set foot in the car.

Some effective methods for how to prevent back pain while driving are:

  • Practice ongoing spinal care
  • Use a lumbar support pillow
  • Adjust your seat position
  • Use cruise control
  • Turn on heated seats when applicable
  • Take plenty of breaks for stretching
  • Keep hydrated

1. Practice Ongoing Spinal Care

The first step in preventing back pain while driving begins before you even get in the car. Finding ways to maintain a healthy spine on an ongoing basis can also help alleviate back pain from driving if it starts. How does it help, you ask? Practicing proper spinal care helps you develop core muscles and keep a healthy back.

There are many ways to practice spinal care. One of the easiest and most popular tools is using a zero gravity chair for back pain and spinal health.

As a way to avoid back pain while driving, zero gravity chairs support your body in a way that reduces excess pressure on the lower back while facilitating better blood flow to help enhance how the body heals itself. Relaxing in your zero gravity chair for even just 20 minutes a day may provide the same level of spinal recovery that you’d get from 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

Zero gravity chairs can also function as a tool for spinal decompression at home. This is great for ongoing self care, but also potentially effective for how to relieve back pain while driving. Spinal decompression helps reverse the effects of gravity and excess pressure on the spine. It helps you maintain a healthy spine and boosts recovery for tissue rehydration.

Other features of zero gravity chairs like heat therapy and massage functions also support spinal health, helping you avoid lower back pain while driving. Heated zero gravity chairs may increase blood circulation, supporting bodily recovery and keeping muscles loose. Zero gravity massage features incorporate vibration or air pressure massage (sometimes referred to as air cell massage) to deepen relaxation while keeping your back strong and healthy.

2. Use a Lumbar Support Pillow

A simple method to prevent back pain while driving is to make sure you have adequate lumbar support. This impacts your driving posture as well as leg positioning and other factors that may contribute toward lower back pain while driving.

Center yourself against the back of your seat for optimal support. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough lumbar support, consider adding a lumbar support pillow. There are many styles and brands available made specifically for use in the car. If you don’t have access to one of these, you may also consider using a rolled-up sweater or other clothing article to fill the empty space and support your lumbar region.

3. Adjust Your Seat Position

Just like with office ergonomics, you should make sure your seat is correctly positioned in the car to reach everything you need without straining your body. These simple adjustments are paramount for how to relieve back pain while driving or prevent it from happening in the first place.

Proper seat positioning means sitting close to the steering wheel, but not too close that it results in a potential safety hazard should there be a collision. Make sure your knees are not elevated above your hip level while seated and that you can reach the steering wheel without having to lean. This reduces excess pressure on the neck, shoulders, and spine. The back of your seat should also be adjusted to a 100- to 110-degree angle for optimal seating.

4. Use Cruise Control

Almost all of today’s vehicles are equipped with some form of cruise control or autopilot. While it’s important to always maintain focus while behind the wheel, these features also help facilitate ways to prevent back pain while driving.

Cruise control or autopilot allows you to put both feet flat on the floor of your car, which supports your body evenly and removes excess pressure from the lower spine. Always be prepared to touch the brake or accelerator as needed, but when it is safe, you can use those opportunities to relax your body and adjust away from the awkward, off-balanced positioning of having one foot at an angle and the other supporting your body.

5. Turn On Heated Car Seats

Just like using heated zero gravity chairs may proactively help prevent back pain while driving, heated car seats are a great feature to aid with how to relieve back pain while driving. Even if it’s a summer road trip and the temperatures are high, consider turning on your heated seats periodically to keep muscles loose and promote better blood flow.

The benefits of heat therapy for pain relief and pain prevention make these kinds of seats a feature worth investing in when purchasing your car. While some heat therapy is beneficial for the body, be sure not to overdo it, however, and instead apply heat therapy in 20- to 30-minute increments.

6. Take Plenty of Breaks for Stretching

Another effective method for preventing back pain while driving is to take plenty of breaks for stretching or walking around. Taking a break for 5 or 10 minutes helps avoid pain from sitting too long in one position and may keep your muscles from becoming stiff.

Take a 5- or 10-minute break at least once or twice an hour. Get out of the car and walk around a little bit or do some active stretches like jumping jacks, lunges, or simple squats to keep nimble. These stretches and exercises also get your blood moving again, which aids in avoiding lower back pain while driving.

7. Keep Hydrated

Last but not least on our list of ways to prevent back pain while driving: stay hydrated. As with anything you do, you should always be making sure you’re drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Drinking enough water while spending time behind the wheel may prevent back spasms and muscle cramps from occurring. If you want a break from regular water, you can also switch between water and zero-sugar electrolyte drinks.

Chances are you’re spending more time in your car than you realize. This makes it vital to learn ways to prevent back pain while driving. Not only do these methods provide relief on the road, but ideas like choosing a zero gravity chair can help you stay pain-free and maintain a healthy spine as part of your daily routine. Follow these tips and hit the open road!