Many people experience leg and back pain when they drive for long distances. The simple issue of not moving can cause muscles to shorten, tighten, and even become injured.
Most people drive with the leg and hip externally rotated with the knee slightly bent, which tends to cause mild nerve root irritation in the lower back and referred pain into the hip, knee, and foot. This can often be remedied by rotating the hip slightly inward, causing the leg to be more in line with the body. Try this on your next long trip and you should get some relief.
Drivers are more likely to adopt poor posture by not properly adjusting their seat. They find themselves leaning into the steering wheel and stretching to reach the pedals, causing long-term stress to the joints and muscles in the lower areas of the spine. The vibration from the road when driving without proper support for the back increases muscle fatigue and compression on the discs of the spine. Conversely, slouching behind the wheel on frequent trips or extended periods can be disastrous for the spine and is one of the central causes of bad backs later in life.
Below are some recommendations for drivers:
• The seat should be firm and contoured to suit your body shape.
• The seat should be positioned so you do not need to overstretch your legs to operate the pedals.
• Cloth seats give better support to your back than leather or vinyl. The friction they provide enables the driver to maintain correct posture.
• Keeping the seat upright or slightly reclining ultimately causes less stress on the back and reduces the effect of vibration.
• If you have an existing back problem, an automatic car would cause less stress than a manual vehicle.
• Most vehicles have an adjustable steering wheel which allows it to be set at the correct height and reach. Adjust yours to a level that is optimal for you.