back pain from driving

When it comes to driving especially during long trips some drivers can suffer from back pain and can feel fatigued. This can be caused by a variety of reasons which include poor seating position and even health problems. While the latter isn’t an easy fix, we can help you with your seating position. Having a good seating position comes with many benefits and can even make your driving experience a more comfortable one. With that said, we created a quick guide to help you avoid back pain while driving and to help keep you comfortable on the road.

car seat interior

One way you can avoid getting back pain while driving, as mentioned earlier, is finding the right driving position. We can’t give you the exact angles and numbers as it varies from person to person, but what we can do is give you a general guide to follow to help get you into a comfortable position.

For starters, you will need to sit as far back into the seat as possible. Make sure that the backrest is also in as much contact with your back as possible. Your legs and torso should also create an angle between 100 and 110 degrees for a comfortable driving experience, again this varies from person to person. However, reclining any more than what was described above could put a strain on your neck and shoulder muscles. Adjust your seat according to whichever feels the best and most comfortable for you.

You can also adjust the base of your seat if your vehicle has this function in order to further help support your things. Ideally, your thighs should be as parallel as possible to the floor of your vehicle.

Aside from this make sure that your seat is a good distance away from the pedals so that you can fully depress them. This will not only let you get a better feel of the pedals, but it will also let you more easily maximize the full stopping power of your brakes in case of an emergency. The headrest of your seat should also align with the middle of your head and with a small gap between the two.

Steering wheel height

After you have adjusted your seating position it's now time to adjust the steering wheel. Make sure that it is at an angle where you can see your gauge cluster and is comfortable as well. The steering wheel shouldn’t be too close to your chest as it may prevent the airbags from working effectively in the event of a crash.

Sit up slightly and adjust your side- and rear-view mirrors accordingly to your new and more comfortable seating position. Make sure that you can glance at your mirrors without having to strain your neck. This will help prevent fatigue from setting in especially if you are on a long-haul trip.

Hand position

Having the proper hand position will not only help you feel more comfortable behind the wheel but it can make it easier to steer the vehicle as well. Think of the steering wheel like a clock, while it holds true that you should place your hands at the 10 and 2 positions, another recommended layout is the 9 and 3. In this manner, in the event of an accident, the airbag won’t hit your hands and arms. It also puts your arms at an angle which means no straight limbs and a lesser chance of broken bones or strained joints during an accident. As an added benefit, your shoulders become more relaxed in this position which also puts less strain on your back. As a final benefit, it also makes it easier for you to use the steering wheel controls.


Another way you can help alleviate or avoid back pain is by making your vehicle’s ride as smooth as possible. Bumps in the road can jar your spine and irritate a tired back. To avoid this make sure that your suspension components are new and that your tires aren’t worn out as they can better absorb road imperfections or better hold air. It is important to note that most modern vehicles are already designed with ride comfort in mind and that their suspension systems have been tuned by the manufacturer to adjust to the road conditions depending on the market that the vehicle is sold in. Another thing you can do to improve your car’s ride comfort is to use a seat pillow or a cushion to provide more padding between you and the road. There are manufacturers and brands that provide ergonomically correct solutions that help you keep your torso in a comfortable and healthy position. 

Shift your weight periodically

Shifting your weight in your seat, periodically accompanied by stretching, can do wonders in helping keep back pain at bay. It will keep your muscles active and it will lessen the fatigue of sitting down for long periods of time. It is highly recommended that you slightly change your position in your seat slightly every 15 to 20 minutes. You can even move your ankles to keep the blood flowing and even provide a slight stretch in your hamstring muscle. Any movement that you can do safely to keep muscles moving will help you a great deal. 

Use your feet to support your back

To help you avoid back pain while driving, you can use your feet to help support your spine. Your feet need to be placed on a firm surface such as the footrest on the floor of the footwell and at the right height to avoid transferring stress to your lower back. Ideally, your knees should be at a right angle. If you drive an automatic transmission vehicle this will be much easier to do, however, if you drive a manual car then this might be a little bit more difficult as you have to depress the clutch pedal repeatedly. 

Cruise control

Another way you can help prevent back pain is to use cruise control if your vehicle has it. This will let you periodically rest your feet and help transfer some of your weight away from your lower back. It is important to note, however, that you still need to be alert and with at least one foot at the ready to either hit the brakes or to accelerate the vehicle.

Find something to divert distract you from the pain

While you still need to focus on driving, you can use other things to help take your mind off the pain. You can do this by playing your favorite songs, podcasts, or audiobook, on the infotainment system or by shifting to a new radio station to occupy your mind. You can also adjust the tuning of your infotainment system’s equalizer settings as the right frequency can help minimize the feeling of fatigue. 


As a final tip, you can do some stretching to help keep your back muscles from stiffening up. Sitting in one position especially for long periods of time will stiffen up your back muscles and lead to aches and pains. 

take a break

That's why it's important to take a break every now and then and to stretch. In this manner, your muscles will have a bit of time to relax and loosen up. Ideally, a driver should take a 15-minute break for every 2-hours of driving that they do. If you are prone to back pain, then taking a break every 30-minutes of driving is highly recommended.

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