Tips to Alleviate Low Back Pain on the Road

If you suffer from low back discomfort and sciatic nerve pain, commuting to and from work is difficult. Here are a few ways you can alleviate your low back discomfort for a pain-free commute.

1. Step One: Getting into the Car

Open up the car door and take a seat. Before adjusting any of the settings on the car seat itself, shimmy your bum side to side and move the fleshy part of your glut muscles out of the way until you can feel yourself sitting on your sits bones—I call this “moving the real estate”—it may require that you actually use your hands to pull your glut muscles out of the way until you feel your sits bones making contact with the seat.

This will help you find and keep the neutral curve of your spine. It will also help you avoid tucking your tailbone too much—a cue often misused or misapplied to help people with low back pain. Be sure to remove any objects from your back pockets to protect your low back and pelvis.

2. Adjusting the Car Seat

Next, adjust the tilt of the seat itself so that your knees and hips are in one line. Your knees and hips should be equal in height, running parallel to the car seat itself.
It is sometimes recommended to elevate your knees above the height of the hips. This will actually promote that tucked-tail; slumped posture, which is harmful for your low back when in the seated position. Elevating your knees above your hips can also cause pinching in the front of the hips.

After you’ve adjusted the tilt of the seat cushion, adjust the backrest so that it matches up with and supports your spine in this new position. For most people with low back pain, that means bringing the backrest up so that it gently rests along your spine.

If you have a lumbar support bar, adjust the settings so that it matches the current curve of your low back. The lumbar support is there to assist you so that you don’t have to expend so much muscle energy to support your posture. If you don’t have a lumbar support in your seat, try placing an Align Block or rolled up towel between your low back and the back of the seat to support the curve of your low back.

Next, adjust the seat forward or back so that you can comfortably reach the pedals in your new, supported posture. You should have a slight bend in the knees and elbows—no reaching for the steering wheel or pedals.

3. Low Back Pain while Driving: Additional Tips

1. If you have a long commute, set yourself up for success and take a few extra minutes to walk and stretch after a long day at the desk. This will help warm up your muscles and lubricate your joints before going back into a static, seated position.

2. If you have low back pain while sitting at your desk, check out the post on Alleviating Low Back Pain While at Work. Long-term relief is gained by making small consistent changes. Because we spend much of our time at a desk, in the car and sleeping at night; small changes to these daily routines will largely improve your low back health and wellness.

3. For petite persons, it can be hard to use the adjustable seat settings to your advantage because you simply aren’t big enough for the seat. Try sitting on top of a folded beach towel. This will help you sit up and out of your hips, allowing you to use the seat adjustments to your advantage.
Lastly, scroll down your iPod and find the song, “Life is a Highway”, by Tom Cochrane (or Rascal Flats). Press play and enjoy a seamless, pain-free ride.
Here’s to healthy, happy backs!

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Meet Dr. Kate Craig DC

While advancing her clinical studies in chiropractic school, Dr. Kate discovered the powerful connection between yoga and Chiropractic. As a student of yoga herself, Dr. Kate is passionate about helping her patients restore balance in their bodies.  

Dr. Kate identifies and treats misalignments in the spine as well as the postural and muscular components that correspond and contribute to these imbalances. Dr. Kate’s expertise is in yoga rehabilitation for those suffering from low back pain.

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