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Driver’s Health Series: Small adjustments, BIG impact – back health while driving

Driver’s Health Series: Small adjustments, BIG impact – back health while driving

As a mobility provider we’ve been working with companies, fleet managers and drivers for more than 20 years now. We know that the cars we provide are more than just means of transport. They are a vital part of many people’s work and accompany them through their everyday life. To ensure that drivers feel their best in this "second living room", our Driver’s health series provides you with helpful tips and tricks. Part one covered the basics with good advice on breaks, hydration and overall health. Part two of the series, takes a look at one of the biggest issues for people with seated jobs: back health. 
 

Insight #1: Find the right match
First of all, not every car is suited for every driver. For example, a compact car or SUV might not be the ideal choice for drivers who are especially tall or small. Pick a vehicle that can be adapted to your body, especially the driver’s seat. During a long drive, the position of the car seat can have a great impact on the driver’s wellbeing. As the longterm effects of sitting are researched more and more, the automotive industry creates seats that are built beyond what safety and comfort require.

So how can you find a seat that’s good for you? First of all: try it if you can. The first test sitting can give you a lot of information. Feeling comfy? That’s a good start! But also check for possible adjustments. More is more here. The more options you have the better you can shape the interior to your body. A great seat should possess the following characteristics:

  1. A firm structure. Seats that are too soft don’t give enough support
     
  2. A spine-friendly shape of the backrest to support the whole back 
     
  3. Height and tilt adjustment and variable seat depth
     
  4. Ideally, a four-way lumbar support to adjust the seat to the lordosis and lower back
     
  5. Adjustable side bolsters are also a nice-to-have

Should the seat not meet your standards, specific ergonomic seats can be retrofitted into many car models. Alternatively, there is a wide range of cushions, paddings and even massage covers to promote back health. While these can be an inexpensive and easy addition for a better position, it’s important to look out for high quality. Make sure that they are ergonomically recommended and, above all, that they can be firmly attached to the seat. Cushions that merely lie on top of the seat can slip in the event of sharp braking and lead to injuries.

Insight #2: Right from the start
Once the right car and seat have been selected, the very first thing to do is to adjust. No, not yourself to the new car but vice versa. It is worth being very precise here at the beginning and taking time to adjust everything properly. Once set, many new car models even memorise your preferred position electronically. This is especially helpful if a car is shared as you won’t have to find the perfect position again each time you use the car. Here is how to find the perfect position:

  1. Adjusting the backrest: 
    Put the backrest in an upright position. Fully sit back against against it. It’s best if the whole back including the shoulders touch the seat. When seated like this, there should still be a bit of space between the backs of the knees and the edge of the seat. If this is not the case, then adjust the backrest forward a bit more until you achieve the right position. 
     
  2. Adjusting the seat horizontally: 
    Put your feet on the pedals. When leaning against the backrest with the whole length of the back at the same time, the legs should be slightly bent even when fully pressing the pedals. The same goes for the elbows when both hands are on the steering wheel: slightly bent works best. Adjust the seat forwards or backwards if this is not the case. 
     
  3. Adjusting the seat vertically: 
    Adjusting the height of the seat is often neglected, but is equally as important. If you sit too low not only might your view of the street be impared but you’re also more likely to strain your neck. For reference: In an upright position your eyes should be at the same height as the vertical middle of the windscreen.
     
  4. Adjusting the head rest: 
    This might seem somewhat counterintuitive but the head rest is not primarily meant to comfortably rest the head on. Its most important function is to protect the head and spine in case of a crash. Therefore make sure it’s not nestled into your neck like a towel at the spa but rather placed behind the back of your head. 

Insight #3: De-stress
As mentioned in part one of our series, regular breaks are essential not only to regain concentration but also to relieve the muscles. The rigid position behind the wheel combined with the strain of staying focused, can take their toll on the body. A short stop every other hour to stand up, stretch and walk is highly recommended. Here are some small exercises to try. Please be advised that these should only be performed when parked up safely and if you're not currently injured. Make sure to gently ease into these exercises and stop immediately if something hurts.

  1. Shoulders:
    Roll them for a bit. First together, then separately in one direction and then the other. Shrug them towards the ears and hold for a couple of seconds then release. 
     
  2. Neck: 
    Tilt the head to one shoulder. The opposite arm points and pulls towards the floor. Flex the hand for a deeper stretch. Hold for a few seconds and then switch sides. 
     
  3. Lower back: 
    While sitting place both feet flat on the floor and press firmly. Sit up straight. Tighten the muscles of the buttocks and abdomen. Relax again after a couple of seconds, repeat.
     
  4. Upper back/chest: 
    Stand against a door frame or your car, put one arm against the surface then stretch by gently turning the body away from it. Hold for a couple of seconds then switch sides. 
     
  5. Wrists: 
    Extend one arm forward, palm facing away, fingers pointed upwards. Push the fingers gently towards you with the other hand until you feel the stretch. Hold for a couple of seconds, then switch sides. 
     
  6. Legs: 
    Stimulate blood circulation in the legs by shifting weight onto the balls of the feet and pumping the heels up and down a few times. 

 

With these tips, you and your back should be well prepared for longer drives. But as there’s always more to learn, make sure to check in with our next Driver’s Health blog on mental health.

See you soon, have a safe journey! 
 

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