How well do you drive? What would your body say?
Our role in our company or family determines how much we spend driving, from a short trip to drop off the kids at school for a parent to a 6 hour return journey for a sales manager to see a client. Being in such a small space can place our body into a cramped position which, over a long enough period, can place pressure on our spines, causing pain, stiffness and discomfort.
If you drive on a daily basis, consider the following points.
- Don’t twist your feet
When driving we have a habit of rotating our feet on the accelerator or clutch. Keep them pointing straight ahead of you to avoid tightening the hip rotators over time. Bring the seat back if you rotate your feet because there isn’t enough room in the foot well.
- No leaning on arm rest.
Slouching is a universal no-no, as it encourages altered spinal curves and can result in nerve irritation or muscle guarding on the side you lean towards. If you have an arm-rest, bring it up so you don’t get tempted and make spread your weight across both buttocks when driving.
- Frequent breaks on long journeys
Our bodies aren’t meant to be sat still for hours at a time. In keeping with our anti-sedentary movement (see our recent anti-sedentary blogpost) breaking up the journey to stretch your muscles and get some fresh (albeit smelling of service station Burger King) air to keep you awake.
- Don’t twist to reach into the back seat
For the same reasons as you lift with your knees instead of your spine, keep everything you need on the front seat or get out to reach objects on the back seat. Twisting places pressure on the spine and can result in trapped nerves and muscle strain. I have known people to trap a nerve by twisting under the kitchen sink for a plastic bag, emphasising the risk of the position, not the load. Not only can it be damaging to the spine, it can also place a lot of force through the delicate shoulder joint and cause a lot of damage.
- Hand position
Drive with your hands at 4 and 8 o’clock positions instead of 10 and 2 o’clock. Recent research suggests the possibility of damage to the shoulder joints when driving with your hands in the latter position in the event of airbag deployment.
- Take your wallet out of your pocket.
Feel that tingling in your feet when you drive? That’s the sciatic nerve being pressed as it travels through the posterior hip region. Think of it as being the same as hitting the back your funny bone (ulnar nerve) in your elbow.
- Bluetooth headset
Not only is holding your phone when driving illegal, if you pinch it between your neck and shoulder it’s also awful for the nerves in your neck. Using a bluetooth headset however, allows you to take phone calls without risking neck pain and will save you 3 points and a £100 fine.