funny_santa_cartoon_graphic2ff5572If you have ever been on a long distance car trip, you may recall the aches and pains from sitting for extended periods. It is very common to experience these aches and pains when driving. Those who already suffer from neck and back pain are more susceptible to the onset of pain during their Christmas season travels.

So how do you take the necessary precautions to ensure you don’t jeopardise your Christmas holiday? This is easy. Many factors can cause neck or back pain while driving, but most are easy to correct.

 Every trip starts with packing the car. This is often left to the last minute when you are in a rush and consequently you forget to lift and carry your cases correctly. Lifting is done from bending the knees, not the back. It is always a good idea to lift in pairs rather than do it yourself.

 Positioning is key. In order to obtain the right posture when driving, you need to understand what position your body is most comfortable in. If we are to look at the lower back, also known as the Lumbar Spine; we natural have a small curve in the spine. This is called a lordosis. In order for you to position your lumbar spine correctly, we need to ensure that this small curve is maintained and not completely flattened. Flattening is primarily seen in slouching and incorrect seat positioning, but by simply placing a small Lumbar support in the lower arch or even rolled up towel, you can provide the support you back needs. Aches and pains are also felt in the
neck and shoulders. This applies to both the driver and passenger. As a driver, you are constantly holding the steering wheel and changing gears, which put stress on the neck and shoulders. In order to decrease this stress you can position your hands on the steering wheel at position 4 and 8 o’clock. This allows you to depress the shoulders a little more without hiking them up around your ears. The neck, like the Lumbar Spine, also has a natural curve which we need to maintain. This is best done by tucking the chin in and not poking/jutting the head forward. As a passenger it is best to always pack a pillow in the car and to prevent sitting in twisted positions.

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[item type=”simple” value=”” icon=”square”]Seat set up. Ideally the base of the driver’s chair should be angled 70-80 degrees from the floor. Adjust the back rest 10-20 degrees back from vertical. The seat should be close enough that your feet can touch the pedal and your knees are bent to a comfortable degree. Both hands should reach the steering wheel with a slight bend at the elbow. If you find you are stretching for the wheel you are set too far back.[/item]

[item type=”simple” value=”” icon=”square”]The most important tip when driving is to TAKE REGULAR BREAKS! Stopping a minimum of every two hours, and stretching your legs, back and neck will help avoid muscle spasm, which aids in preventing pain.[/item]

[item type=”simple” value=”” icon=”square”]External factors also play a big role. If you wear glasses for driving, ensure that they are worn. Squinting to see the road ahead increases the stress in the neck and shoulders. Sun glasses may be needed if there is a glare which will cause this too.

Check the windscreen is clean and clear of smears.

It is best to have everything you will need within reach, and for all radio or internal car functions to be pre-set before you begin your journey.

Make sure there is a continuous flow of oxygen in the car. The accessory muscles for breathing have a direct effect on the neck and shoulder, and a decrease in oxygen will only increase stress.[/item][/items_list]

The Christmas season is right around the corner. Travel safely and look after your back.