Holiday Driving Tips to Avoid Back & Neck Pain
Good posture while driving can help prevent common back and neck problems as well as protect against injury from whiplash. For long drives, it is important to remember that no one configuration of the car seat needs to be maintained during the whole trip. When we sleep at night in a comfortable bed, do we not change positions multiple times througout the evening? So why do we need to accept only one position in a car seat while driving, which is much more stressful than the horizontal sleeping position. Give yourself permission to re-adjust your seat as often as needed throughout your trip!
From the ideal position, you can experiment with adjusting your seat nearer or farther from the steering wheel to alleviate leg, foot, lower back, shoulder, and arm tensions which develop. Also try adjusting your seat by reclining it more or less, in addition to changing the angle of the bottom seat cushion. Of course, safety is of the utmost concern and no seat adjustment should interfere with your control of the vehicle or your front, side, and rear visiblitiy; however, you'd be surprised at the amazing latitude you have in adjusting your seat into different comfort positions while still maintaing your safely. This will allow you to shift your stress as needed to different bodily regions throughout your trip, minimizing discomfort in any one area.
If you have chronic lower back problems, reclining the driver's seat backward can alleviate stress on the lower discs. A lumbar support or small pillow can also be helpful, but different back conditions make some people feel better with an increased low back curve, while others experience aggravation of their pain. You will have to experiment with this for yourself. Remember though, if you do recline your car seat, your neck will have to be carried farther forward during your drive to maintain it's upright posture, and neck strain may result. So, oftentimes the attempt to preserve your lower back ends up irritating your neck.
Always be sure your headrest is adjusted so that it is raised at least as high as the tops of your ears, and there should be no more than a fist-width distance between your head and the headrest. This helps protect against whiplash injuries and even death in the case of an accident.
One final suggestion is that you make frequent stops, at least every two hours, and don't be shy about stretching during those breaks, to help your muscles release their tension from long maintained driving positions.
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