Driving and Back Pain

Do you feel pain in your lower back or neck and shoulders after sitting in a car, van or a bus for an hour or two?

Many patients, who come to see us, started to have pain because of driving or sitting for a long time.

Sometimes, they do not seek help straight away and the problem gets worse.

Well, we would like you to drive WITHOUT back pain.

However your lifestyle may require you to spend lots of time in a car or on the tube or bus. Lets see what can be done to get you to feel better. Your back is curved on purpose. This helps dampen the impact of walking, standing and sitting and all the joints in your spine are formed to allow for this gentle back curve. 

1. If your habit is to sit slouching, this over stretches and weakens the back, making it prone to injury and unstable. So, tuck your bum deep into the chair or the car seat to stop slouching – this will support your back and make you more comfortable.

2. When you are in a car and your seat is very upright, this flattens your back and keeps it under pressure throughout your journey. My advice is to drive in a more “laid back” style, with your backrest reclined and your back resting onto it.

3. If you have a “low back support” built into your seats, make sure it is activated. It creates a supportive bump in the lower part of your backrest to support a natural curve of your low back. If your car doesn’t have this support, you have to use a foam roll or a small pillow, to support your low back, preserving the natural curve of your low back.

4. The steering wheel should not be too high. I advise you to keep it in its lowest position, to let you rest your arms on your lap while holding the steering wheel when driving on the straight. When turning – it will also save your shoulders from shrugging reaching for a high positioned wheel.

5. Move your seat slightly back so you can comfortably reach the pedals and the steering wheel, without creating tension in your back or shoulders.

6. When getting a new car – get yourself an automatic gear change. The “myth” of more control and response from a manual gearbox is only a myth, unless you are on the race track, so give yourself a break and concentrate on the road instead of jerking the gears all the time.

7. If you car seat has a tilt function for the actual seat, make sure the front of the seat is higher than the back to allow you sliding deeper back into the seat instead of sliding out of it.

8. First adjust the seat and recline, then the lumbar support, then the distance to the pedals by simply moving whole seat back or forth and then the steering wheel distance and height.

We found that most of our patients managed to find a more comfortable position in their car using these simple rules above, despite the age and the make of the car.

Don’t forget to re-adjust your mirrors after you have changed the position of your seat and to drive safely and relaxed. When you feel more comfortable, your improved  awareness will be better at saving you from any dangers on the road.

Pictures of dos and don’ts of car posture and seat setup:

Perfect car seat setup where low back is supported and shoulders are relaxed:

Wrong driving posture: shoulders slouched and raised, chin protruding forward, too close to the wheel, backrest too straight

Wrong driving posture: wheel is too high, shoulders raised and stiff

Wrong driving posture: although looks comfortable, one shoulder is too static and high on the armrest, another shoulder raised too much. Armrest may cause a stiff shoulder, when used consistently on long journeys.

Wrong driving posture: You can’t drive like that! Wheel is too far as well as all other controls, shoulders will get stiff quickly reaching and stretching for the wheel


Rememeber to re-adjust your mirrors after you have changed the position of your seat and to drive safely and relaxed. When you feel more comfortable, your improved awareness will be better at saving you from any dangers on the road. 

If you are a back or neck pain sufferer, remember, the optimal functioning of the spine is necessary for your overall good health.

When your car has an insufficient low back support or none at all, please see below for the lumbar support pillow like Mckenzie Lumbar roll.