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Back Pain ‘Driving’ You Mad? 7 Tips To Alleviate Back Pain While Driving

Have you taken a family vacation that required hours of travel this summer? Or do you do a lot of driving whether it’s a commute to work or part of your job? If so, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve experienced some form of back pain. Around 30-60% of drivers report having back pain at some point in their life! In fact, the majority of our patients with back pain report spending at least 30 minutes or more on the road, almost daily.

But why does something as simple as driving trigger back pain when it’s not exactly strenuous? Driving or traveling for long periods of time exposes the body to many different forces such as acceleration, sudden stops, and most notably vibrations from the road – and it especially affects those who drive larger vehicles.

Driving also involves the use of your feet to control the cars pedals which means they are not used to help stabilize and support your lower body as they normally would when sitting. This is important because with the combination of having to use the pedals and the inadequate design of some vehicle seats, back pain is almost inevitable for the majority of us. As a result, back pain can make driving unpleasant (in some cases, unbearable), so I put together a list of tips to help make your next journey as pain-free as possible. Here are 7 tips to help you:

  1. Get Comfortable Before You Set Off – A small irritation can quickly grow into an unbearable pain! Whether you have a long journey ahead or a short commute to work, the small irritation can quickly affect the rest of your day. So, take a couple minutes to settle into a comfortable position before you take off and this can be as easy as checking your mirrors or adjusting your seat!

  2. Adjust Your Mirrors – As mentioned, adjusting your mirrors can help get you settled in but it’s especially important so you don’t have to move or twist to see out of them properly. As a general rule, you should only have to move your eyes to be able to see out of your mirrors. Tip: if you adjust them while sitting up straight – if you begin to slouch you’ll lose vision in the mirror, which will act as a reminder to sit up.

  3. Use A Towel For Support – For additional support while driving – roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back. Car seats don’t often support the curve of your back. By using a towel you’ll help yourself out by maintaining good posture, making back pain a lot less likely to creep up.

  4. Make Sure You’re Sitting Comfortably – Most people don’t realize it, but when they’re driving, their seat is positioned completely wrong, which can cause back pain and problems with posture. As you take a seat, make sure your seat is only slightly reclined so that it feels natural to sit comfortably – think 100-degree angle instead of 90, and you’ll be sitting in about the right position to drive pain free. If you recline your seat too far, your head won’t be able to comfortably rest against the headrest which can cause tension in your neck and upper back.

  5. Take Regular Breaks – I know you see signs for ‘taking a break’ along the side of the road all the time – but it’s for a good reason. Stopping regularly (around every hour) to move and stretch will help ease any tension and reduce any muscle stiffness. When you take a break, do some gentle twists to loosen the body up. And 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.

  6. Use Cruise Control – If your car has cruise control, use this when you can – usually on long stretches of road when it’s quiet or the traffic is flowing nicely. 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.

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

I hope these tips help you on your next long drive and as always, give us a call at (360) 456-1444 or email us at with any lingering questions you may have!


Jennifer Penrose

Penrose Physical Therapy

"Leading Experts Helping People Become More Active and Mobile, Reduce Stress and Achieve Longevity… So They Can Enjoy Great Health For Years to Come!"

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