How to Stop Lower Back Pain While Sitting in Traffic

By: Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT

 

Traffic sucks.

Lower back pain sucks.

Now combine the two.

Sometimes you just want to scream at the top of your lungs.

Thirty minutes feels like three hours when you are waiting in traffic with lower back pain.

It’s hard for me to think of a more uncomfortable situation than being stuck in your car unable to move as your back pain steadily increases.

Thankfully, I’m going to provide practical tips in this article to help you avoid lower back pain during your daily commute.

I am going to discuss some of the reasons for getting lower back pain while driving.  By knowing the causes of lower back pain, you'll have a better understanding to stay out of it.

Why do people get lower back pain while driving?

I wish lower back pain was easier to understand but it’s not that simple.  There are multiple factors involved and the science is complex, but I’m going to explain a few take home principles to help you.

As the low back rounds out, there is increased stress to the structures in the low back.  If you maintain a slouched position for a long time, such as waiting in traffic, you can get back pain.

Many driver seats do not provide enough support for the low back.  The lack of support may cause the lower back to round out.

To make matters worse, most seats are low to the floor which pushes your knees up towards your chest causing your low back to round out even more. Double whammy!

Here are a few practical tips to stay out of back pain:

Tip #1

Bring your hips back all the way to the back of the seat.  This position will make it easier to maintain the arch of the low back.

By maintaining the arch of the low back, you’ll have less strain on the lower back.  If you slouch, the hips tend to slide forward.

Tip #2:

Raise the height of the seat if possible. Your goal is to have your hips slightly above your knees to prevent the low back from rounding out.

This position increases the thigh-torso angle which allows your pelvis to tilt forward.  As the pelvis tilts forward, the lower back arches which reduces strain.

If it is not possible to raise the seat, you can try bringing  the seat back. This helps the knees to extend so the lower back does not round out as much.

Just don’t over-do it.

Tip #3:

Move around frequently.  Try to shift your position at least every 10 minutes when sitting.  I know it’s hard because you are stuck in traffic and can’t stand up but try to change the position of your lower back.

In sitting, you can bring your pelvis in an anterior and posterior tilt.  The posterior tilt will cause the lower back to round out temporarily which is like standing up and bending forward to touch your toes.

The anterior tilt causes the low back to arch which is like standing up and bending backwards.

Watch the video to learn how to perform an anterior and posterior pelvic tilt while sitting.

 

 

Moving the spine helps to keep blood flow circulating which provides nutrients to the lower back.  Without blood flow, tissue in the body can die.  Think of pressure sores.

Pressure sores form due to lack of oxygen.  If you never move, then your lower back won’t get oxygen. Your low back will die.  Not really, but you get the point.

Just move.

Tip #4: Use a low back support to maintain the natural arch of the lower back.   The majority of people sit with the back excessively rounded out for the reasons I have previously stated.

The Evercore low back support has a nylon strap that goes around the back of the driver’s seat which helps the support to stay in place when you get in and out of your car.

The design of the Evercore low back support is unique because the pillow is cylindrical and meant to go right in the small of the low back. If you are trying to maintain the arch of the lower back, this design is ideal.

Personally, I use the small Evercore low back support in my car.  In my office chair a use a large Evercore low back support.

We provide three different sizes because you may need a different amount of support depending on the chair you are sitting in.

I have tried using the larger low back support in my car but it did not feel as comfortable as the smaller one.  Each person will need a different amount of support.

It depends on your body size, your preference, and the surface you are sitting on.

The important principle is to maintain the arch of the low back if you want to avoid lower back pain while driving.

Lower back pain sucks but it’s still no excuse to flip off the car next to you. Even if they cut you off.

I don’t have a solution for bad drivers but these tips can make your morning commute more tolerable.

Here is a quick summary of the 4 tips we covered:

  • Move the hips all the way to the back of the seat
  • Raise the height of the seat
  • Move around frequently
  • Maintain the arch of the lower back

Happy commuting and stay pain-free!

Check out the Evercore low back supports Here