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Life in Motion

Back to the Grind: Commuting with Back Pain

Back, Neck & Spine

With summer over, more school buses and cars are back on the road, which may mean a longer commute time. If you are one of the 80% of Americans who experience back pain at one time or another, extra time spent behind the wheel can be uncomfortable. Here, physiatrist Kevin Bernard, MD, recommends a few tips to help keep you comfortable.

  • Make sure you have proper lumbar support. You can use a small pillow or a rolled up towel placed behind the small of your back.
  • Stay active while driving by:
    • Pressing your back up against the back of the seat.
    • Rolling your shoulders from front to back 5 to 10 times.
  • Make sure your driver’s seat is adjusted properly.
    • Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
    • Move the seat close enough to the steering wheel to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals without straining.
  • Keeping a portable ice pack on hand can be a useful strategy if pain should occur. In some instances, application of heat, or using your vehicles heated seats if available, can help to relax muscles that are tight.
  • Do not drive if you have radiating pain and weakness or dysfunction in your driving leg.

It’s important to remember that although you may be uncomfortable, you are not damaging your back with a long car ride.

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