How they sit at the wheel gives 75 per cent of drivers back pain

Back pain

Back pain affects three quarters of drivers (Picture iStock/Chesiire Cat)

Three quarters of UK drivers suffer from back pain because of their car’s seating position. Researchers from car supermarket Motorpoint quizzed drivers about how they sit when behind the wheel. They discovered that many didn’t know what the proper seating angle was. And when shown different examples, a third thought the wrong seating position was correct. Read on to find out how to sit in your car.

How many drivers aren’t sitting comfortably

A lot of us. When drivers were shown diagrams giving three options of how they should sit at the wheel, nearly a third (30 per cent) picked the wrong position. Of the drivers asked, 16 per cent chose a position that would make them lean too far back, 14 per cent hunched too far forwards over the wheel.

Back pain

Three out of 10 drivers sit either too far back or too far forwards (Picture iStock/neyro2008)

Who is affected?

It’s not the creaking joints of the more mature driver that suffer while sitting at the wheel. According to Motorpoint, drivers aged 25-34 years-old are the most likely to get back pain at the wheel. In that age bracket, 83 per cent said they suffered. The next age group was 35-44 year-olds with 79 per cent having bad backs. More women than men apparently find driving uncomfortable.

Why do so many people suffer from bad backs?

The study found that three quarters of drivers (75 per cent) experience back pain because of how they sit in their car. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, back experts say the human body isn’t designed to sit down for long periods. We are supposed to be either standing or lying down.

In addition to that, many modern cars have driving positions that are slightly offset. This is when the pedals are at a different angle to the seat. Sometimes the steering wheel can be at another angle again. Although the differences in angle involved are tiny, they are sufficient to make drivers twist slightly. Over time this can aggravate the lower back, leading to pain.

How should drivers sit?

Physiotherapist from Pr1mebody Tim Blakey said: “Awareness is key. Do you slump to one side with your elbow on the centre console, window or door? Does your seat cushion bulge at one side? If so, try to balance yourself out. The key isn’t to try to sit with perfect posture 24/7. That’s unsustainable and actually impossible. The most important thing we can do is to move more. This may mean taking frequent opportunities to get out of the car and walk or stretch.”

Clare Henson-Bowen a physio at Bespoke Wellbeing says drivers should keep the seat as close to the wheel as is comfortable so their elbows are relaxed. They should adjust the backrest so it supports the spine without them leaning too far back. And drivers should adjust mirrors to avoid excessive twisting.

Read more about how to drive without back pain here

One comment on “How they sit at the wheel gives 75 per cent of drivers back pain

  1. S. MacLaren April 28, 2018 12:47 am

    Upper back and shoulder/neck pain is a problem too. In my 36 years of driving, I have noticed that the moving forward of the central line of the seat of the neck restraint (used to be caused head rest) causes the shoulders and neck bent forward, and unnatural slight hunching posture which people should avoid at all costs. This is supposedly to prevent the whiplash effect for the neck in any incident (driven by EU standards), but what good is ‘safe’ neck position if one’s life is made a misery by postural aches?

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