Back problems can be triggered by poor posture and drivers are particularly at risk. By adjusting and setting up your car seat properly, your posture can be improved and the risk of back pain minimised.
If you’re hiring a car, borrowing a pool car, buying a new car or simply want to ensure your own car is providing the best support for your back, making simple adjustments and changes to the way you get in and out, and sit in the vehicle, could make all the difference.
Here are some practical tips to help you – and your back – get the most from your car:
- Getting in – Open the vehicle door fully (don’t try to squeeze in) and use one hand to grasp the top of the seat, headrest or roof handle. Keep your lower back straight, bend your knees and sit on the edge of the seat facing directly away from the side of the car. In one continuous movement, keep your legs together and bring your feet in to rest on the floor.
- Seat height – Set the height of the seat so that your hips are at the same height as your knees. If you have your knees higher, this will create an unnatural position for your back.
- Seat position – Adjust the position of your seat forwards or backwards, so that your elbows are bent at about 20 to 30 degrees, with your hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the steering wheel.
- Wheel and pedals – Adjust the steering wheel to the most comfortable position. When your feet are resting on the pedals, your legs should be bent at about 45 degrees. Don’t overstretch to reach the pedals, as this will cause you to slouch.
- Lumbar cushions – Some cars have lumbar cushions that can be adjusted to encourage the natural ‘S’ shaped curvature of the spine. Alternatively, use a rolled up towel and position it between your lower back and the seat.
- Headrest adjustment – Alter your headrest so that the middle of the back of your head is aligned with the middle of the cushion. When you’re sitting correctly, the back of your head should be about one inch away from the cushion. Never remove the headrest, as it helps protect your neck from whiplash injuries in the event of a car crash or sudden stop.
- Mirrors – Ensure your mirrors are positioned correctly, so that you can see clearly without straining your neck or back. Well-positioned mirrors will allow you to avoid unnecessarily twisting or turning your spine.
- Getting out – Try to park so you can open your door fully. With your hand on either side of your seat, keep your lower back straight and swing both legs out of the car in one continuous movement. If necessary for balance, put one hand on the top of the car or the car door as you stand.