How to Prevent Back Pain

Protecting Your Back in the Car

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. With your seat all the way back, get a firm grip on the  wheel and either the roof or the edge of your seat

If you are like most people, you probably use your car or truck to go almost everywhere. Many people have to travel long distances to and from work each day. Most people do not take the time to adjust the seats in their cars, but a properly adjusted seat can reduce the stress and strain on your back. Try the following adjustments next time you use your vehicle.

Ride Right

Bring your seat close enough to the steering wheel to minimize the reach for your hands to grasp the wheel. Your legs should be bent at the knees and hips rather than kept straight. If you have an adjustable lumbar support, adjust it to where you have a slight inward curve in your low back. If your car does not have this feature, roll up a towel to about the size of your forearm, and place this in the small of your back. If your seat has a tilt adjustment, start with your body sitting up perfectly straight, and tilt it slightly backward but not too much. Keep your buttocks against the back of the seat so that they do not creep forward, causing you to slump.

If you travel long distances, or sit in the car for long periods, make slight but frequent adjustments in your seat's position. Even if your seat is adjusted perfectly and your back is aligned just right, locking your spine in one position for the length of the ride can cause you a lot of problems. Remember, your back likes movement. Those slight shifts keep it happy and healthy.

If your job requires you to be on the road constantly, you might want to make seat adjustability a priority in your next car purchase. In your present vehicle, though, there are various seat cushions and inserts that you can buy to improve your back position and to make your driving more comfortable. Let your back guide you in your purchase -- one size does not fit all.

Ease In and Out

Besides the ride itself, your car presents other hazardous situations for your back. You may not pay too much attention to how you get in and out of your car. Some people almost fall into their cars, twisting their backs in potentially dangerous ways. Getting out can be equally strenuous and hazardous if you are not paying attention. Here are a couple of helpful hints to lessen the strain on your back as you get in and out of your car.

Before you get out of your car next time, move your seat back away from the steering wheel as far as it will go. Open the door all the way, and place your right hand on the steering wheel and your left hand on the edge of your seat, next to your left thigh, or on the edge of the roof. Lift both legs off of the floor boards, keeping them together, and move your legs and upper body as a single unit toward the open door. You should feel like you are spinning on your bottom, without twisting your spine. Next, put your feet on the ground and use your legs, hands, and arms to help raise yourself up and out of the car. Push off with your hands from the seat or the door frame, whichever affords you better leverage. Remember to keep your back straight and your head up.

To get back into the car, turn your back to the open door and sit down in the seat, using the strength of your arms and legs again to lower your body into the seat slowly. You should still be facing off to the side of the car, not toward the front. Next, put your right hand back on the steering wheel or other stable part of the car, and move your body as a single unit back toward the steering wheel. Just like getting out, your whole body pivots on your bottom and your legs swing into position without twisting your back. Readjust your seat and you are ready to roll. It may take a few extra seconds to get in and out of the car this way, but in the long run, it will help keep your back free from aches and pains.

Feed Your Spine

Even with a perfectly adjusted seat, the lack of movement that goes along with a car ride starves your spine. On long trips, get out of your car as frequently as possible. When you make a stop, stand up, place your hands on your hips, and gently arch your back. This will relax and stretch tight, tired muscles and help to keep the joints lubricated. Like all stretches, remember to hold the position for at least ten seconds.

In addition to stretching your back, you should stretch your legs. Stretching your legs directly affects your back and can easily be accomplished with a short walk or by putting one leg on the bumper of your car and slowly straightening your knee until you feel a mild stretch in the muscles in the back of your thighs.

Once you're at work there are a host of other potential hazards that can throw your back out of alignment. In the next section, we will show how to set up your cubicle to be back-friendly.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.