Adventurous motorists who love to travel enjoy cross-country or long-distance driving. Driving for extended hours has its downsides. These long-distance travelers, particularly truck drivers who stay on the road, regularly suffer from back problems. Their foremost concerns include determining the primary cause of the discomfort, figuring out an ideal driving position, and easing the pain while behind the wheel.
Causes of Lower Back and Neck Aches
Driving for long hours continuously displaces the lumbar curve and puts additional pressure on the spinal column’s bone and discs. Vibration and bumping affect your backbone. The neck also suffers from trauma as the car seat tilts backward leaving the driver no choice but to bend the neck by 20 degrees and look straight ahead. Modern car models introduced a lower roof lining, reducing interior space and lowering the seat. The innovation put more strain on the hamstring muscles and rolled the pelvic bone at the spine toward the back.
Holding the wheel tightly during road trips can cause undue tension on your neck and shoulders. Try to loosen up more while driving. Drivers must stay close to the steering wheel so the elbows bend slightly. In some vehicles, the wheel shifts from the seat’s midpoint, so the driver holds the wheel at a particular angle to the upper body causing stress on the neckline and shoulders.
What is the perfect driving posture? If possible, prop up your thighs with the car seat cushion. Avoid sitting too far from the foot pedals because the position puts more pressure on the neck and upper back. Try to adjust the steering control so you can get hold of it with curved arms.
Lower Back Support
Long-distance drivers must understand the importance of lumbar support. The body’s lower posterior muscles help in rotational movement providing the vertebrae with strength as well as flexibility. The lumbar spine supports most of your weight and therefore requires elasticity. In simpler terms, the body’s abdominal section keeps the body upright, which is one reason it receives the most amount of physical stress.
These muscles become more prone to injuries when the person lifts heavy objects or twists the body to a great extent. This condition often leads to a bad back, which can turn out to be unbearable. Long-distance driving frequently triggers a lumbar problem. Thus, the person at the wheel requires ample support to correct bad posture.
The Problem of Leg Pain
The scientific term – sciatica – underscores signs and symptoms of aching legs, numbness, or infirmity. The feeling starts at the lower back before going through the buttocks and down the nerves at the ends of your legs. The condition begins with soreness on one part of the thigh or buttocks. The pain gets worse as the person sits longer and makes it difficult to rise or walk.
Many truck drivers suffer from pinched nerves that eventually lead not only to physical but emotional stress as well. People who tolerate sciatica while driving can have a medical condition known as herniated disc, causing severe pain in the backbone. Sitting down for a prolonged time can make matters worse.
Smart Solutions for Long-Haul Drivers
Drivers need to get comfortable right away from the moment the trip starts because any minor aggravation can turn into unbearable discomfort later on. Remove objects from your back pockets such as mobile devices and wallets since these can produce possible misalignment of your backbone. Refrain from reaching out to the steering wheel because the movement puts more pressure on your wrists, spinal column, neck, and shoulders. Sit close to the steering wheel without putting your safety on the line.
Sit upright with both knees a bit higher than the hips. Pull in your chin, so the head is above your spine. Align your back against the rear of your car seat. Shop around for special pillows and cushions filled with material made of memory foam that can help prevent sciatica pain. Road bumps can aggravate your condition. To limit back issues, replace worn out tires and shocks; this can reduce rebounding while on ragged thoroughfares. Or try decreasing tire pressure for smoother travel.
Make extra effort to move your backbone. Sitting for hours in the car will make your back muscles stiff, leading to pain and muscle spasms. Schedule stopovers every half hour if possible, and get out of your vehicle to stretch as well as walk around. Body movement promotes blood circulation, bringing nutrients along with oxygen to your back. Move a bit while driving in between these stops. Try to move and stretch every 10 seconds instead of sitting motionless.
Adjust the car seat and change your position a little every 15 to 20 minutes. Thrust your ankles forward, so your blood flows continuously. Don’t forget to carry along a cold or ice pack for the relief of back pains. Swelling usually accompanies back pain so apply the pack to bring down the inflammation as well as soothe the deadened tissues. Always use a towel or cloth as a cover to prevent the ice from burning your skin.
Heat up your muscle tissues. Aside from the cold pack, bring a heating pad and power converter for long drives. You can plug the gadget into the power source in your vehicle such as the cigarette lighter. Or, make use of a heat wrap. These typically last for around six hours and utilize adhesives to hold them in place. Applying the wrap guarantees steady, low-level heat directly on the skin surface and keeps back muscles temperate.
Make sure to sustain your lower backbone with the two feet through bottom-up weight. Put your feet on a hard and stable surface and at the right elevation to prevent stress to your spine. Ideally, position both knees at a right angle. Place the feet on a small platform if the car seat happens to be extremely elevated. Experienced drivers should be able to employ cruise control during longer trips. This posture will keep the feet on the floor for a longer time.
It may help to keep your mind away from any feeling of soreness. Drivers have several options to keep themselves occupied while driving for long hours. Turn on the audio system and listen to the latest collection of melodies, or an audiobook or podcast. On the other hand, passengers can read an e-book, fiddle with their tablets, try a new video game on their mobile phone, or meditate.
Professional drivers also have the option of engaging in exercise programs such as standing stomach and standing hip shift exercises, allowing them to be at the wheel with less pain. Physical therapists can also suggest other activities for this purpose.
A long road trip entails some planning to avoid all those health issues and keep fit even while behind the steering wheel. Passengers can take medications, but drivers should avoid this practice because some medicines can cause drowsiness and lead to accidents if you suddenly fall asleep. When you are not behind the wheel, get enough rest to relieve the pain and consult a doctor if the condition persists.