9 tips to improve your posture… whilst driving

Image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you drive? … I am certain that a vast majority of you reading this blog will drive to work on a regular basis. (… having said that, I hope you aren’t reading this post whilst driving!)

Let’s say that average person spends approximately 60 minutes in the car per day. That’s 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes on the return trip back home.

If you’re like me and you work the 5 day week, that’s a total of 5 hours of being in the car per week. If you do the math…

You spend over 20 hours in your car per month … or 240 hours per year!

That’s a lot of time! Imagine what you could achieve if you made use of those valuable minutes in the car each day.

Bad posture in the car

bad car posture

Look familiar? It’s the exact same posture you probably adopt whilst your sitting in front of the computer. This can lead to issues like headaches, sciatica, tight shoulders and lower back pain. (… just to name a few)

Make sure you know how to sit properly before reading this post! Check out this post: Ideal sitting posture which explains exactly how your posture should be whilst sitting.

 


// Disclaimer: Please perform these exercises at your own risk. Your safety is my number 1 priority. If you feel that these tips impede your ability to drive, please re-consider doing them.


 

Posture exercises whilst driving

 

1. Seat adjustment

Keep your seat height as high as it can comfortably go… providing that:

  1. you can sustain complete vision of the road
  2. your head does not hit the roof of the car
  3. your feet can comfortably reach the foot pedals.

The advantage of this high seat position is that it allows you to position your pelvis in the correct neutral position. I’ve talked about the correct position of the pelvis in this post: The correct pelvis position whilst sitting.

If the seat is too low, it will cause you to slouch at the pelvis, round the lower back, and result in a hunched posture. (… and this is the exact posture we are trying to avoid)

knee angle

Another key point to note is that chair should be positioned within reasonable distance to the foot pedal.

How does one determine what is reasonable distance? Good question… You want to aim to have your knees bent at ~120-135 degrees. Any more than this, especially for those who suffer from tight hamstrings or gluteal muscles, your pelvis will start to rotate backwards.

Note: For those people who drive a fairly low car, you may have limited options when it comes to seat height adjustment. For you people – I recommended doing a whole lot of hamstring and gluteal muscle stretches!

2. Use a lumbar support

Most cars these days are fitted with a lumbar support in the seat which can be adjusted accordingly to the shape of your back.

The main aim with the lumbar support is to preserve the neutral arch of your lower back. (… most of us tend to round our back whilst driving)

If your car does not have in-built lumbar support into the seat, consider using a rolled up towel or a small pillow instead. Just make sure that you are not over pronouncing the curve of your lumbar arch. If it feels like something is jabbing into your lower back, then it is likely the towel/pillow is too thick.

 

3. Stretch whilst you sit

Stretch sitting – This is a term that was developed by the Esther Gokhale who is the pioneer of the Gokhale Method.

It involves sitting in a specific way which will help stretch out the spine. It was developed as a response to the fact that most of our back issues are due to excessive compression along the spine.

Video from Gokhale Method.

Instructions:

  • Tuck your pelvis to the back of the seat.
  • Tilt your lower ribs down to elongate the spine.
  • Place your hands on the side of the seat and push down as you bend forward.
  • Hinge backwards until the middle of your upper back is hooked onto the seat.
  • Relax you arms.
  • Re-position your shoulders by rolling backwards.

What should it feel like? There should be a subtle pulling sensation throughout the spine. It should feel like someone is gently elongating and stretching your spine as you sit tall.

 

4. Elbow position

elbow position in car

 

Keep your elbows low and close to your body. Do not allow your elbows to flare out.

By doing this, it will help with maintaining your shoulders in a safe and neutral position.

A common mistake I see a lot of drivers make is that they place their elbows on the side of the window. Don’t do this! This will cause your elbows to flare out, shoulders to hunch and result in a bad posture.

 

5. Red light chin tucks

Every time you stop at a red traffic light, do some chin tucks.

chin tuck in car

Instructions:

  • Make sure your posture is reflective of the ideal sitting posture.
  • Rest your head back on the head rest.
  • Gently tuck your chin in.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Make sure you can feel a stretch at the back of your neck. If you can’t, you may need to play around with the angles a bit more until you can.

The most common posture I see is people driving with their head poking forward. Don’t do that! Check out the post: How to fix forward head posture to learn how to correct this issue.

Chin tucks… They might look funny… especially if someone is looking at you at the lights whilst you’re doing them. But hey – you will likely never see them ever again. So, don’t hold back.

I am hoping that one day when I’m in the car doing this exercise at the red lights, that the person in the next car is doing the same thing. (… Maybe they read the blog?)

If you want to learn how to do more neck exercises, check out this post: Neck strengthening exercises.

 

6. Scapula retraction

Retraction

 

Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Feel the muscle between your shoulder blades contract.

How long can you hold this for? I usually try to hold this contraction for the length of a whole song whilst listening to the radio.

Why is this important to do? Scapula retractions will help strengthen the muscles that are responsible for good posture.

 

7. Pelvic tilts

pelvic tilting

Gently tuck your tail bone underneath you. Proceed to arch your lower back. Alternate between these 2 position for 10 repetitions.

Suggestion: You can do this exercise to the beat of a song on the radio. Or not… Up to you.

 

8. Wake up the butt muscles

Too much sitting whether it be at work or in the car (or both!) can cause your gluteal muscles to become weaker.

Your gluteal muscles can affect your posture! Check out this post : Is sitting destroying your butt muscles? to get a list of exercises that will help strengthen your butt muscles.

When your car is stationary, take advantage of this time to get those muscles working.

glute activation in car

What to do:

  • Sit up tall.
  • Push your knees outwards against your car.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can until you need to drive again.
  • Feel your butt muscles contract!

 

9. Big stretch

Finally. You have reached your destination. Get out of the car and stretch!

I recommend doing the “big yawn stretch” which you should all be quite familiar with.

If you have no idea what it is, here is a picture of me doing it.

yawn stretch

 

Focus on feeling the stretch of all the structure at the front of your body. These muscles are usually the ones that are tight when you sit in your car for long period of time.


 

Make the most of your time in your car! Try these 9 simple tips the next time you drive to work.

Drive safe!

About

I am a physiotherapist who has personally experienced the pain as a result of bad posture. I would like to offer you some of the solutions that I and my patients have greatly benefited from.

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7 thoughts on “9 tips to improve your posture… whilst driving

  1. Thank you for the post! My chiropractor has been working on my neck pain and we’ll be driving to California for the holidays. He stressed that I have proper posture while I’m driving or it could increase the pain for the week we’re staying with family. Is it OK to drive with a neck pillow or will that mess with your posture?

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      If you feel that your head is straining over long periods of driving, a neck pillow (one of which does not push your head forward) may provide some support. However – I would suggest using it intermittently throughout the trip as opposed to all the way.

      Also – if you are not the one behind the wheel, you can try reclining your chair so that your head is resting on the head rest which will offload your neck muscles.

      Thank you for the comment. Happy travels!

  2. Hi, Thanks for the useful post. I am currently suffering a pinched nerve due to driving. I have tried adjusting the seat a lot to find the sweet spot . Once I find a comfortable position it still feels like my neck is being pushed forward and now I’m in agony. I have purchased a back joy to help with my posture, hopefully that helps.. other than that it’s been a painful journey thus far.

  3. I have an anterior anterior pelvic tilt, and always have problems with long drives and the around my sacrun and lower back. Any suggestions for posture exercises or positions while driving for this condition?

    1. Hey David,

      To be honest, it is actually very difficult to maintain good posture in a car seat.

      The main reason behind this (I think) is that the car seats are designed to be safer for whiplash injuries during a motor vehicle accident.

      In regards to your Anterior pelvic tilt, The main thing is to keep your pelvis is a Neutral position as much as possible.

      Check out this post here

      Mark

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