How would you rate your posture while driving on a scale from 1 to 10?
Unfortunately, the American people have a posture problem. Most of us sit for most of the day either at a desk, driving a car, on the couch, or looking down at a smartphone.
Meghan Markowski is a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
She states that she sees the results of poor posture in her work with patients.
“It’s a common and important health problem among Americans, and it can lead to neck pain, back problems, and other aggravating conditions.”
How Does Your Driving Posture Affect Your Body?
Studies have shown that drivers of trucks and public transport vehicles are at a greater risk of lower back and neck pain syndromes and other musculoskeletal disorders in part because of poor sitting posture.
The United States Department of Transportation National Household Travel Survey Daily Travel Quick Facts tells us that 87% of daily trips take place in a personal vehicle, and 91% of Americans commute to work in a personal vehicle.
The average American spends 55 minutes a day behind the wheel and drives about 29 miles each day.
So is there anything that you can do to prevent or alleviate these problems? Yes, there is!
Tips to Help You Improve Your Posture While Driving
Here are some tips to protect yourself from the ills that poor posture when driving can cause.
#1: Drive What Fits You
Most people buy a car according to what fits their wallet, not what fits their body. Just know if you are the size of a basketball player, a MiniCooper is not going to be a good fit for you.
Cars aren’t designed for correct sitting posture, but newer models have included adjustments for the seat and steering column.
#2: Take Breaks
Everyone feels stiff after sitting and driving for extended lengths of time. Whenever possible and practical, take a break every 20 minutes.
And while it is not always an option to stop periodically, if at all possible, try to go no longer than 60 minutes without a break to get out and stretch.
#3: Adjust The Car Seat
To find your ideal position in your car, start with the seat in the wrong position and adjust it from there.
Adjust the seat height up until your hips are at least as high as your knees.
Make sure you can see the road and the instruments, and not so high that you have to bend your head down or to the side in order to see.
To get the correct angle, you want to push your bottom as close to the back of the seat as you can.
#4: Use Both of Your Hands on The Wheel
Most people drive one-handed. The safest way to drive is with two hands on the wheel; it also evens out the tension you will experience when using one hand only.
That uneven tension creeps up your shoulder, neck, and jaw.
Holding the steering wheel in the 9 and 3 o’clock position is the recommended position for safety and posture.
Your elbows should be slightly bent when reaching for the steering wheel.
#5: Give Your Knees Space
The cushion of the driver’s seat should provide support for your entire thigh. Leave a two-finger gap between the back of your knee and the seat, too.
Change the pedals’ distance so that your knees are slightly bent when the pedals are fully down.
#6: Support Your Back While Driving
Sit with your tailbone to the back of the seat with both of your arms extended but not straight.
If you need to, get a lumbar or back cushion for the seat to help support your back. All of your back should be touching the seat when driving.
#7: Lean Into It
The back of the seat should recline at an angle of 110-110 degrees, as this decreases the pressure on the discs in your lower back.
Lean back to the point that it is comfortable, but not so that your head and neck get pushed forward. You want to adjust the back of the seat so that your spine and pelvis area straight.
#8: Adjust Your Headrest
Adjust the headrest so that it is in the middle of your head and does not push your head forward.
The top of the headrest should be the same height as the top of your head. It should just slightly touch your head when you are sitting comfortably.
Having your headrest properly adjusted can help reduce injuries like whiplash in case of an accident.
#9: Remove Items From Your Pockets
Surprised? You can get yourself in the correct position, but if you are sitting on a bulky wallet, it is going to throw the whole alignment out of whack.
If you feel that you will forget your items in the car if you remove them from your back pocket, move those items to a front pocket for the duration of your drive.
Proper Posture Prevents Physical Perils
It surely does! Here are a few of the ways that good posture helps your health:
Benefits of Good Posture
- Keeps your spine in proper alignment
- Keeps your joints from becoming set in abnormal positions
- Ensures muscles work correctly
- Decreases wear and tear on joint surfaces
- Maximizes energy
- Decrease fatigue
- Prevents backache and chronic muscle pain
- Facilitates better breathing
- Decreases stress on ligaments holding the spine in place
- Minimizes risk of sprain and strain injuries
- Minimizes risk of back pain
The American Chiropractic Association says that “good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity.”
It seems easy, but good posture is not as intuitive as it looks. If you are unsure if your posture is correct, take a look at this checklist: Correct Posture Checklist.
The American Chiropractic Association has some helpful suggestions for Maintaining Good Posture.
Using these suggestions while driving, sitting, or standing will help keep you from experiencing the dreaded aching back.
Try stretching (safely) while you sit. Stretch sitting is something that you can practice when not driving and use it when you are.
Yes, it does. Slouching while driving can give you heartburn and can promote constipation.
Slouching increases abdominal pressure and decreases the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to hold against that pressure.
Studies have shown that your driving position reflects in your reaction time. When you are using the correct driving posture, you have a faster reaction time, better visibility, and decreased strain on your body.
Mazda uses the term “Jinba-Ittai,” meaning “horse and rider as one.” This is what you should strive for with your posture while driving.
Andy is an urban survivor passionate about recycling, clean energy, and micromobility. He loves nature and people and peacefully militates for a balance between the two. When he’s not writing on Noble Urban you’ll find him riding his bike, fishing, or reading a good book.