Tips for Finding a Low-Back-Pain-Friendly Vehicle: Part One
Whether you are a passenger or a driver, being in a car can quickly increase the intensity level of your low back pain. Car rides can be bumpy and long. Driving requires reaching with hands and feet. Many ergonomic reasons come to mind when someone asks me why her/his back pain is worse while taking a drive. A lot depends on the car that you drive. Follow these B.E.E.P tips for choosing the right car for you, your back and your budget.
_Be Seat Wise _…A vehicle seat will make or break your driving experience. Bad seats ruin that drive rather quickly. Good seats will make the miles go by a little more comfortably. When choosing the right seat look for adjustability. Most seats have the ability to adjust the seat back in a recline position, but you need a seat that does more than that. The best seats will allow you to adjust the seat pan angle too. With the front of the seat pan higher than the back edge of it, your tailbone will be lower than you thigh bones. This position is often the most comfortable position because it places your knees closer to the chest and relaxes the spine. An adjustable lumbar support can be helpful too. And don’t forget the importance of a heated seat in the wintertime. Heat really helps ease muscle tension. Before buying a vehicle, test out the seat and see how many ways to Sunday you can adjust it.
_Eliminate Reaching _…Reaching with either your arms or your legs can place a great deal of stress on the low back because of a concept called lever-arm forces. The longer the lever arm or reach, the more load on your core and low back. The usual way to eliminate the distance needed to reach the steering wheel or foot pedals is to slide the seat forward. But the best cars have other features that can help as well. Some cars have telescoping steering wheels that slide the wheel backward or forward. Some cars have adjustable foot pedals the slide the pedals forward or backward. In order to exit the vehicle, you may have to reposition the seat and steering wheel unless you have a car with memory features which automatically adjust the seat according to your preset settings. The more a car adjusts to you, the better for you.
(To Be Continued in B.E.E.P. part 2)
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.