If you find yourself constantly slouching behind the wheel, now is the time to start straightening things out.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, discomfort and lower back pain are frequent complaints reported by drivers.
Foot cramps, lower back pain, stiff necks and sore shoulders can all result from staying in one position for too long. In fact, the term “repetitive driving injury” (RDI) is commonly used in the United Kingdom to describe long-term muscle, joint and spinal injuries often resulting from driving too much.
There are obvious risks associated with any activity, driving included, but simply having bad posture while driving can also affect your health by causing significant strain on your lower back and neck.
The first step in correcting poor posture is to be aware of your own personal habits and to make appropriate adjustments for proper body alignment.
To make sure you are seated properly in your car, check that the seat is in a position where both your knees and hips are at 90-degree angles – you should be able to reach the pedals without having your back come away from your seat.
When turning the steering wheel, your shoulders should be able to remain in contact with the seat, and mirrors should be adjusted to reduce strains on the neck and upper back.
Seating posture and body type should also be a consideration when purchasing a new vehicle.
A compact car may not suit a taller person and low coupes with sport seats may not be advisable for drivers already suffering from lower back pain.
During test drives, be mindful of soft, squishy seats suspended by springs. Softer seats in older cars will cause slumping – drivers would want seats that will position the hips at the same level as the knees. The shape of the seat should also suit your individual body shape and support your shoulder blades while offering a wide range of adjustments.
Automakers nowadays also offer features like adjustable lumbar support and heated seats to make driving more ergonomic and comfortable for drivers. Some vehicles come with in seat massage systems too!
Proper lumbar support is crucial to good posture. The lumbar region is the portion of the spine that bears the most body weight and provides the most flexibility. A seat with good lumbar support should maintain the natural curvature of the lower spine.
For drivers currently suffering from musculoskeletal or repetitive strain injury, having heated seats in the vehicle could offer some relief and comfort.
In 2010, Statistics Canada measured the affects of commuting and discovered that on average, Canadians spend 24 minutes a day driving to and from work, and in the Lower Mainland that time could be much greater. That accumulates to a lot of time spent behind the wheel by the end of the week.
Having good posture is just one small habit that can have tremendous benefits on your health. So do what your mother’s been telling you and sit up straight!
Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].