If you thought ergonomics was limited to office settings and to sitting properly in front of your computer, think again! Driving, especially for long periods of time, puts significant stress on the back and neck. Small cars often don’t fit tall drivers, while other cars may not support all users. If you have to crank your neck to look through your mirrors, twist or turn your body to enter and exit your vehicle, or if you tightly clench the steering wheel while sitting in a hunched-over position, driving your car may be a musculoskeletal injury just waiting to happen.
The good news is that there are many ergonomic tips for driving which will allow you to drive comfortably, safely, and injury free. With a few adjustments and even some innovative ergonomic car accessories, you can prevent neck and back pain behind the wheel and enjoy the ride.
Proper Sitting in Your Car
Follow these ergonomic strategies for driving:
- Adjust the seat height so you have a good view out the windshield but avoid hitting the steering wheel with your thighs.
- Check that your feet can depress all the foot pedals without your back coming away from the seat back or move your seat closer to the steering wheel
- Recline the back of your seat so your shoulders are behind your hips maintaining an upright, relaxed posture.
- Many car seat designs force rounded back posture. To support the natural curvature of your spine, invest in a thin lumbar cushion or full backrest to reduce rounded shoulders and back postures.
- Set your seat height and seat angle to support your bottom and thighs evenly to prevent uneven, circulation-restricting pressure points on your glutes and thighs.
- Hold the steering wheel with your hands at the nine and three o’clock positions, rather that at ten and two o’clock, leaving your arms and shoulders in a relaxed and healthful position
- Adjust your mirrors so that you can see without excessive twisting or turning of your neck
- Check that you have ample room to get in and out of your car easily; enter your vehicle by sitting first and then swinging your legs in; exit your vehicle by sliding your legs out first and then standing up (decreasing strain to the low back)
Ergo Driving Breaks
To reset your spine and alleviate pressure caused by prolonged sitting, take advantage of red lights or sitting in traffic by doing some simple stretches, such as reaching your hands up towards the sky.
After two hours of driving (if not sooner), get out of your car for a stretching or walking break. Not only will this prevent stiff muscles and strain to the back, but also relieve the stress in your wrists and hands. Holding a steering wheel in awkward postures or too tightly can give rise to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ergonomic Car Accessories Review
Here are some of the latest ergonomic car accessories hitting the markets:
- Magnet Bubble Seat Cushion, Acu-Bead Magnetic Cushion: These economy seat cushions feature molded foam bubbles, magnets and acubeads for pressure points. For best value and support, consider buying higher quality: Nikken, ObusForme
- Comfort Lumbar Support: is a favorite for poorly designed car seats. This supports healthy posture of the entire back, relieve aches and pains, and tension to avoid rounded shoulders and back
- Wooden Bead Car Seat and Bamboo Car Seat: Allows air to circulate, keeping you cool when driving. With mixed reviews about the comfort and quality of these, a bigger concern is the compression to your bottom and legs.
- For healthier seating posture, wedges can improve spinal alignment and reduce back pain from the scooped bucket seat design.
- Ergonomic children’s car seats: Feature a lightweight design, comfortable handling, and adjustable seats and back/head/shoulder rests to fit the physique of each child
Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.