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Driving can cause low back and leg pain

What's Driving the Pain?

Transportation methods have come a long way, mainly in the 20th century, advancing from horse and carriage to the advent of electrical driven motor vehicles.


With the modernization of transportation, came longer driving periods. Car seats have sadly not been built with too many ergonomics in mind. This has all, unfortunately, wreaked havoc on the passengers in terms of lower back and leg pain.


From the gas pedal to the curve of the seat, issues such as sciatica and piriformis syndrome can develop or exacerbate existing symptoms.


After working with many clients who do plenty of driving, we’ve developed a few driving tips to keep in mind:

Headrest

We’ve posted a blog on this before but it can’t be stressed enough. Yes, the headrest is designed to minimize whiplash injuries but it often causes bad neck positioning by enforcing a forward head positioning. Watch for the “jutting forward” of the chin. This can easily be checked by rolling the shoulders back and seeing if your head has a little room to move back. 

neck pain from headrest
Resting left foot on foot pad reduces low back pain

Left Foot on the Foot Pad

Having the right foot forward on the gas pedal causes the right hip to torsion forward. This torsion often causes low back pain symptoms.


Placing the left foot on the foot pad helps keep the pelvis in alignment by having both legs relatively in the same position. This is also a better option than keeping the left foot flat on the floorboard, causing flexion at the left knee, which does not help for circulation.

Driving with high heels can cause low back pain

High Heels

Calling all ladies who wear high heels while driving! Never mind walking in this type of shoes, the strain the high heels cause while driving are just bad news for the shins, pelvis and calves. If possible, try wearing flat-soled shoes while driving.

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Right Heel under the Gas

It is also important to ensure the heel is placed below the gas pedal and not between the gas pedal and the brake pad. This reduces the angling or external rotation of the foot to the right, which can lead to hypertension on the right side of the calf and ankle, as well as in the buttock muscles. In fact, it is best to shift the entire leg and foot between the brake pedal and gas, to maintain the proper foot alignment. 

Right Heel under the gas reduces low back pain
Driving tip to reduce shoulder and neck pain

Heed the Driving Instructor

Hands at nine and three o’clock is not just for good driving habits, it is also good for body posture. It helps keep the shoulders bilaterally level, thereby keeping the torso in alignment, which then helps to balance the spine and pelvis. Even driving one-handed can cause unwanted torso twisting. 


Also avoid resting the left elbow on the door arm rest, as it is often not level with the right arm. If nine and three are uncomfortable for long periods and one-handed driving is preferred, balance it by alternating each hand that is driving every now and then.

False Lumbar Support

Car seats often now have the expandable lumbar support. While they help to keep the natural lower back curve, drivers have unfortunately become reliant on these to reduce the back pain they may be experiencing. The lumbar support unfortunately tends to allow core muscles to weaken.


It is important to keep the core muscles strong via many strengthening exercises, including aerobic activities such as walking and running. Yoga is a very good core strengthening activity or ask your practitioner which exercises may be best suited for your specific situation.

Strengthen core muscles to reduce low back pain

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It’s often the case that pain is a result of gradual misalignment and as a result, it does take time to retrain toward a healthy and conscious posture. But it is worth it. Balance the effect of driving by keeping these tips in mind on the next road trip and talk to your practitioner at your next appointment with us.