Does your vehicle cause pain in your back, neck, shoulders or legs? If you say yes you are far from alone. For those of you who don’t drive often or for long distances, the discomfort for the most is minimal. However, if driving is an essential part of your job or if you have a long commute, the discomfort could be quite an issue. In severe cases, the only fix is get a different vehicle which isn’t always an easy or cheap. So, how do you prevent getting the wrong vehicle for you? First you need to know what causes discomfort and then you need to know yourself, i.e. your body, and your job which includes tasks performed in your vehicle.
The 5 primary reasons why your vehicle causes pain are the following:
1. Poor posture (Improperly adjusted seat (or seat fit) or personal habits)
- Have you ever paid attention to your posture behind the wheel? Do you know: Where is your head compared to the rest of your body? Where are your hands/arms compared to your shoulders? Is your lower back supported? Does the front of seat put pressure behind your knees? I could go on and on with more questions but you get the idea. Some of the reasons we sit the way we do are caused from the shape/contour/fit of the seat and some are due to personal habits.
- This is pretty much self explanatory. Some people are simply stressed whenever they drive and it shows in their posture. They tend to lean forward close to the steering wheel and gripping it tightly.
3. Static and prolonged posture
- Static prolonged posture in any position will cause discomfort. Our bodies are made to move and change positions frequently. It is not uncommon for those who drive Driving 4-6+ hours/day to feel tightness and discomfort.
4. Wrong size vehicle for you
- Let’s face it, some vehicles are larger and some are smaller. If you happen to be 6’5” and your friend is 4’10” it would be a mistake to believe that you would fit well in the same vehicle.
5. Wrong size vehicle for your job
- The vehicle you drive should not only fit you but the tasks you do. What tasks do you have to do out of your vehicle, i.e. paper work, computer use, load/unload products, phone calls, etc.?
6 Tips for Easing Driving Pain
Now that you know why your vehicle is a pain here are some tips to fix it:
- Adjust Your Seat—take the time to adjust the seat height, mirrors, lumbar support, back tilt, seatpan tilt, steering wheel height, steering wheel hand placement and distance to pedals. You can’t fully alternate to a different posture while driving but you can make small adjusts to all of those while driving in order to change/tweak your posture just a bit
- Rest breaks—start a habit to stop and stretch at least once every 2 hours, ideally once every hour
- Be Mindful of your Ingress/Egress—if you drive a large vehicle with a high step up/step down, add a step (running board) or slowly step out instead of ‘jumping’ down.
- Computer Use—if you are going to use your laptop more than 5-10’, consider working from the passenger or rear seats as there is more space available. There are also laptop mounts that make laptop use more comfortable.
- Perform Stretches—stretches can be performed during your breaks or when you reach your destination
- In-the-Office Day—If you have an office day, consider moving it to the middle of the week so you get a break from driving
Are You an At Risk Driver?
If you suffer from pain while driving, you are already at risk. But, what if you don’t particularly have any discomfort while driving? There is a way to quantify driving discomfort risk and identify parameters for choosing the right vehicle. That is to perform a Vehicle Fit Assessment. This is similar to any workstation assessment but instead of being performed inside your employer’s building it is performed with you and your vehicle. We can determine if there are any risk factors that need to be addressed and advise on what changes may need to be made. Changes may relate to training/education, adjusting the fit of the vehicle, not a costly vehicle replacement. We can also offer recommendations on whether a specific vehicle would be a suitable match for you or even to use as a fleet vehicle. Contact us for more details.