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Driving Ergonomics From a Physical Therapist

Pain with driving is a common complaint in the physical therapy office. We are asked often about the best way to set up a car seat ergonomically to decrease pain. Improper ergonomic set up in the car can cause or exacerbate symptoms in your neck, back, upper or lower body. Here are some tips to adjust your car seat correctly for those long days spent driving.

Most importantly, never adjust your car in a way that will impede your ability to drive.

Seat: • Raise/Lower the seat until your knees and hips are at a level position. In this position, you should also be able to comfortably see both the road and your dashboard. A cushion may be necessary if your seat doesn’t go high enough. • Bring the seat as far forward as you need it in order to press the pedals without moving your back • Tilt the car seat so that the pressure is evenly distributed throughout your thigh. Make sure the back of your knees are not hitting the cushion. • Recline the seat back to 100-110 degrees. This is only slightly reclined from the most upright position. • Adjust your lumbar support if your car has it to your comfort. You may need to buy a lumbar support cushion if you do not feel your car’s support is adequate to keep you in a neutral spine position.

Headrest: • Adjust the headrest so that your head can gently rest on it. Don’t forget to tuck your chin while in the position to avoid excessive strain on your neck.

Steering Wheel: • Bring your steering wheel close to you to minimize the reach required. This will place less strain on your arms and shoulders.

Mirrors: • Now, in your near perfect positioning, adjust your mirrors so that you can see the road adequately. If you start to slouch during your drive, you will notice because you will no longer be able to see out your mirrors.

Lastly, just like in the office, minimize the amount of time you spend sitting at a time. If you are going for a long drive, try to take breaks every hour or two in order to stretch your legs. This may impede your speed but in the long run your body will thank you for it.

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