Healthy Driving Makes for a Healthy Back and Neck
by Bill Bergman, PhD
Spine Rehabilitation Specialist, Soft Tissue Center at D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine Center
The car can be our best friend or worst enemy, depending on your mental outlook. Dr. Bill Bergman
, a spine rehabilitation specialist offers simple and practical advice to prevent unncessary pain while in your car.
The car can be our best friend or worst enemy, depending on your mental outlook. Back, neck, shoulder, arms and hips are all challenged on a simple car drive. To avoid pain and the number one priority when getting in the car is to see if you are lined up properly with the steering wheel and gas pedal. This alone will help relieve stress in the entire body. Make sure your head is in a comfortable position and shoulders are relaxed. Your seat should be close enough to the gas pedal, so there is no odd extending of the hips and legs. Too much extension can lead to back and leg pain. Sciatica pain can form from twisted angles and tight hamstrings and glutes.
Keep your hands in a comfortable position and be aware of your grip. In crazy traffic you will notice “white knuckles.” That comes from gripping the steering wheel so tight that it leads to sore hands, forearms, shoulders, all the way up to the neck. Make a mental note or write a big note to yourself…relax your grip!!! This simple task will reduce driving stress in half. Studies have shown that your blood pressure can go up strongly, when you squeeze your hands to tight.
If you are driving an older car, check your seat for proper lower back support. If you can place your hand comfortably behind your lower back while in seated position, you need to add a lower back support. You can go to your doctor or back store and pick up a premade lower back support or just roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back. This will encourage you to sit up straighter and allow your spine to do its job. No slouching, this is terrible for your back but it also limits blood supply to the entire body and the brain.
If you are stuck in traffic, do some isometric exercises. For the neck, extend your head against the head rest, gently push against the headrest and hold for 5 to 15 seconds. Middle back, place your hands low on the steering wheel, raise your chest up and flex backwards. Lower back, flex your hamstrings and glutes, hold and relax. Try to breathe through the stress of driving. Make a game of how you can get home in one piece…then park your car in the garage and walk everywhere you can.
|William K. Bergman, PhD
is highly-regarded for his expertise in rehabilitation and core strengthening and is a spine rehabilitation specialist as well as being certified by the National Association of Speed and Explosion. Earning his doctorate in kinesiology from Ryokan University, Dr. Bergman brings a unique skill set to the multidisciplinary team at D.I.S.C. using applied scientific-based medical principles towards the analysis, preservation and enhancement of human movement, he focuses on targeted exercise for improvement of health, physical fitness and chronic back pain. Dr. Bergamn specializes in a form of neck and low back rehabilitation known as MedX.