Many drivers experience pain to the leg and back when driving for long distances. This is due to many factors, but essentially being stationary and not moving for extended periods of time results in the muscles shortening and tightening, creating tension and aches.
48% of drivers (eBayMotors.co.uk, 2006) are unsure how to correctly adjust their driver’s seat. Having an incorrectly adjusted seat will result in poor posture while driving. Drivers adopt habits such as leaning into the steering wheel, or stretching out their legs to reach the pedals. These actions combined with the vibration from the road whilst driving increases muscle fatigue and compression on the disks of the spine. This can be reduced by having the correct support and driving position.
Many drivers will suffer from low back pain, knee and sciatica symptoms, solely from their driving position. It is common for drivers to sit with their right leg and hip (accelerator/break foot) externally rotated and the knee slightly bent. This position causes the muscles to tighten and places extra stress on the spine, possibly resulting in a nerve root irritation in the lumbar spine and giving sciatica pain.
This position is spotted by assessing the position of the right foot. In an externally rotated leg the toes will be pointing towards the door and NOT facing forwards in line with the body.
Here are some useful tips on the best driving position practices
• The seat should be positioned so that the driver does not need to overstretch his legs to operate the pedals. The best knee angle for driving should be about 130 degrees.
• Cloth/fabric seats give better support to your back than leather or vinyl covers. A cloth seat provides friction and enables the driver to maintain the correct posture while driving.
• A seat in an upright or slightly reclining position ultimately causes less stress on the back and reduces the effect of vibration.
• Watch your posture. Take care not to slouch or roll your shoulders this will cause you all kinds of discomfort and prolonged problems, even on a short journey. Ensure your lower back and shoulders are supported by the chair
• Grab that wheel! Don’t just rest your hands on the steering wheel, actually hold it.
• Remove objects from your pockets before starting up the engine. This includes wallets and mobile phones. In the back pocket sitting on them will result in an uneven posture from the pelvis going up the spine. Having them in the front pockets can put pressure on the blood and nerve supply to the leg...
• Keep your mirrors adjusted so you can see the full 180 degrees behind you. Do this when sitting in good posture, have the rear view mirror up with the top of the rear window screen. – This gives you a nice visual notification of a drop in posture.
• Rest when you can, get out and walk about. This stretches the muscles and gets the blood moving again helping to ward off stiffness
For an ergonomic new car checklist click here
For an ergonomic seat position guide click here
For more inormation about the ergonomc of driving click here.