March 28, 2014

Driving posture: A cause of long term pain

Every day, millions of people travel to and from work by car or drive around all day in lorries or trucks for their jobs.

For some, driving is the primary means of transport for journeys to and from work, also for some driving a motorised road vehicle is their job, for example truck drivers, bus drivers, ambulance, police, taxi etc.

Modern vehicle design has progressed a long way over the years with better styling features, more fuel efficient and comfort however there is concern that seating in vehicles may cause back injuries.

If your vehicle is not moving then the driving seat may be no more different then a comfy chair, but when the vehicle starts to move things change.

Unlike normal seating, when a vehicle is in motion the body is subjected to different forces (acceleration, stopping and starting, lateral movement swaying from side to side and to up and down over bumps) the feet are in constant movement on the brake clutch accelerator pedals.

This is in contrast to normal activity where the feet support and stabilise the lower body when walking or placed on the floor when sitting in a chair.

There is some concern that these factors combined with car seat design may increase the chance of back problems for some people.

Research is being carried out as to the effect of whole body vibration when a person is sitting in a vehicle, the lower spine has a natural frequency and results show that this natural frequency can be excited by vehicle driving and can increase the load on the lower spine which in turn increases lower back pain.

Analysis of the possible reason for this revelled that long –term vibration exposure from driving was among highest risk factors for neck, back and lower back problems Research is current looking at the association with driving and back problems  and that long distance and those that spend a long time each day driving are at addition risk .

Is there an ideal car seat design?  This will depend on what you need in a seat and sometime the cost of the vehicle but as a start identify optimal needs:

1. Adjustable seat back inclines

2. Changeable seat bottom depth

3. Adjustable seat height

4. Adjustable seat incline

5. Firm bottom cushions

6. Adjustable lumber supports

7. Adjustable head rest

8. Adjustable seat travels to allow different size drivers

9. Seat shock absorbers to dampen frequencies

10. Possible arm rest

What should you look for in a car seat when buying your next car; is possible that the seating in the car you purchase may not have all the above; it is important that you pay particular attention to:

  • Car Seat Comfort – when you sit in the car seat and you have adjusted this to fit your body and it feel comfortable, if this is not possible it is likely to cause you back problems when you drive any great distance or spend a lot of time bouncing up a down in the seat test drive the car for seating comfort as well as motoring experience. How often have you got out of the car after a long journey and had to stretch and walk around to get your body back to working mode?
  • Car Seat Adjustment – is it possible to adjust all the features of your car seat to a position to suit you at a minimum you should be able to alter:
    • Seat distance to allow for different leg length.
    • Seat height to allow different legs lengths.
    • The back rest to allow sitting in an upright or more inclined position.

Having the basic adjustments done it may be possible to look at other useful adjustments that may be available to you:

  • Seat tilt to angle the front seat so not as to press against the back of the knees similar to the DSE assessment for work stations when operating the computer.
  • Lumber cushion supporting the lower back it was once said that if you roll a towel up and place it in the lower back of the seat to help support the lower back but with todays modern cars this may be a feature in your car.
  • Head rest for neck support.
  • If available arm rest support adjustable for preferred height.

Adjusting the seating to suit the length of legs and reachable pedal for complete control of the vehicle is a MUST!

Remember to change your posture from time to time while driving ONLY WHEN SAFE TO DO SO!

Take regular breaks, driving today is more stressful and fatiguing with all the traffic hold ups, detours and the need to get where you have to in ever shorter time.

There are a number of car gadgets on the market to help improve the seating in your car, for example fleeces and beaded back rests which help massage you while driving but most important of all is choose whatever you find that adds to your safe driving comfort you in a car you may be in the vehicle a long time during your working day.

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