7 Ways to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Driving (Short or Long Car Rides)

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7 Ways to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Driving (Short or Long Car Rides)

Article Reviewed & Updated 

Medical Reviewer: Kari Haberman

If you're like most people, you spend a lot of time in your car. Whether you're driving to work, running errands, or vacationing in another state, long periods behind the wheel can be taxing on your body.

If you're also struggling with lower back pain, that discomfort can be exacerbated while driving. But there are ways to reduce your risk of developing back pain while driving, and we'll share them with you in today's post.

Keep reading for seven tips that will help keep your back healthy and pain-free!

Why Your Lower Back Hurts While Driving

So why does your lower back hurt while driving? Well, it's not always because you turned the wrong way or haven't adjusted your rearview mirror properly. It is possible that it's the result of a number of various or cumulative causes. Here are some:

Incorrect position of the car seat

Having the car seat too high or angled in such a way that you feel like you're sitting up really straight could be putting excess pressure on your lower back. This pressure can lead to muscle strain and/or spasms.

With your spine not in a "neutral" position – or using an uncomfortable seat cushion or lumbar support pillow that doesn't fit your body type and size well and is causing discomfort.

Or it could be because you're extending your arms too far to reach pedals, which limits the mobility of the upper back and neck muscles.

Furthermore, if your seat belt runs across your stomach, this could also cause lower back pain while you're driving. If the seat belt is uncomfortable or irritating to your skin, then it's probably cutting into the soft tissue in your lower back.

Additionally, if the seat belt rides up too high on your torso (toward your belly button), this can cause tightness in the muscles of the lower back.

Uncomfortable ride

The ideal posture for driving is one in which your head and neck are positioned in a slight forward-flexed position, and your waist and legs form a 90-degree angle (i.e., butt pushed all the way against the back of the car's seat with both feet pressed firmly on the floor). If your car doesn't allow for this, add cushions to support yourself.

Poor driving habits

Bad driving habits such as holding onto the steering wheel too tightly or leaning awkwardly when turning/parking can place added stress on your lower back.

Long drives without breaks

Riding in a car for hours with no breaks can cause your back muscles to contract and tighten. Take periodic breaks throughout your drive; get out of the car and stretch or walk around for a few minutes (this is especially important if you've been sitting for over thirty minutes).

Existing back injury

If you have an existing back injury, even the most routine activities can be uncomfortable. Injuries make it difficult to maintain proper posture and can make you more susceptible to strain and spasms.

It could be past surgical history in the back, herniated disc, sciatica, spondylosis, and other conditions which make it harder to sit for long periods of time.

The good news is that you can do a lot about it. If your lower back hurts while driving, there are steps you can take (and precautions you should consider) to help prevent the worsening of the pain or the development of a new lower back injury.

Other factors

Certain factors are also implicated in lower back pain while driving, including being overweight or of a certain age (e.g., if you're over 40 years old).

Being overweight can put excess pressure on the lower back, while aging can make it more difficult for your back muscles to compensate for an uncomfortable car seat.

Now that you know some of the causes of lower back pain after long car rides or drives, let's talk about how you can avoid developing this condition. Continue reading to get to know seven tips that will help keep your back healthy and pain-free.

Can Long Car Rides Cause Lower Back Pain

The most common question we get related to lower back pain from sitting in car is "Can long car rides cause lower back pain?" And the quick answer is yes.

Let us discuss this in detail.

It is quite common to have back pain after a long car ride, even without any pre-existing lower back pain. A long commute each day with less than favorable sitting positions can put you at risk for lower back problems later on.

In some cases, the effects of a single bad posture throughout the course of a long drive might not be that noticeable.

But it's important to note that as your body takes hours upon hours of poor postures during those daily commutes, all those little changes in these muscles and joints add up over time.

What is the Best Driving Position for Lower Back Pain

The second most popular question we get related to lower back pain from sitting in car is "What is the best driving position for lower back pain?" And once again, the answer is similar to what we mentioned above.

There's no one perfect way to sit while you drive. Truth be told, there are many ways to mitigate back pain while driving. But this depends on your physical structure and the kind of vehicle you're using.

Here are four basic car sitting positions that can make a huge difference:

1. Driving with the Back Up Straight

We want to encourage you to be mindful of your lower back while driving. Because if you slouch or lean too far back, it can add a lot of stress to this area. In fact, many drivers have reported lower back pain from long commutes due to these two factors.

2. Driving with Proper Posture

In addition to sitting up straight, some experts recommend that you keep your thighs parallel to the ground and your feet at the top of the pedals while maintaining a slight forward-flexed position in your neck and head (i.e., chin slightly tucked in).

This is definitely one way to help minimize lower back strain from driving for extended periods of time each day!

3. Driving With Your Seat Cushion

And now, here's a quick tip from those who have been there. Driving with your seat cushion can help provide some extra lower back support that you otherwise might not get while behind the wheel. Just be sure to remove it when you're done driving!

4. Driving With Additional Support

At the end of the day, if none of these sitting positions seem to work for you (and especially if you're dealing with chronic pain), you should consider adjusting your car seat or even switching up your mode of transportation altogether (e.g., walking/biking/carpooling).

It could make all the difference in minimizing lower back strain while driving long commutes each day!

7 Ways to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Driving

As many as 8 out of 10 American adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives, and for drivers, that pain can be exacerbated by long hours behind the wheel. Here are seven ways to help you avoid lower back pain while driving.

1) Use a Wedge Car Seat Cushion

car seat cushion

Last but not least, driving with your seat cushion can help provide some extra lower back support that you otherwise might not get while behind the wheel. In fact, studies say that even a simple car cushion can reduce lower back and leg pain by 80 percent.

If you're going on a long drive, one of the best investments you can make for lower back pain relief is a good back support pillow.

These pillows are designed to help maintain better posture by preventing slouching and keeping the spine properly aligned during driving.

You can use a car seat cushion like ComfiLumba Car Seat Cushion for Car Seat Driver (with Leg Extender) - Gel Seat Cushion & Memory Foam Wedge Car Pillow to avoid lower back pain while driving.

The ComfiLumba Car Seat Cushion for Car Seat Driver (with Leg Extender)

If you're looking for relief from the tailbone and hip pain, improved posture, or comfort on long drives, the ComfiLumba Car Seat Cushion is perfect for you! This innovative cushion was designed by a scoliosis sufferer with your needs in mind.

The wedge-shaped design gently tilts your pelvis to ease the stress on your knees and legs, while the built-in leg extender gives you extra space to stretch out.

Our Car Seat Cushion for Driver with Leg Extender is perfect for providing lumbar support and pressure relief. The U-shaped cut-out will cradle your tailbone, while the Lumbar Gap helps to improve spinal alignment and relieve pain.

So go ahead and take that long road trip you've been wanting to do - with ComfiLumba, you'll be in comfort the whole way there!

2)  Adjust Your Seat And Your Headrest Properly

Set your car at an appropriate height and distance from the steering wheel so you sit straight with both feet firmly planted on the floor (see image above).

Ensure there is adequate lumbar support which will help maintain a normal curve in your lower spine. You should also adjust either side mirror so you have a full view behind your vehicle.

Adjusting your driver's seat before you start is important for comfort during a long trip. Make sure that anyone who will be sharing the vehicle with you gets their own properly adjusted seat as well. In some cases, it may also be helpful to adjust the headrest.

Although it sounds minor, the headrest can have a big impact on your posture. If the headrest is too high, it will actually force you to tilt your chin up as shown in the photo below, creating a major strain on your neck and upper back muscles.

Being too low can also be uncomfortable as it forces you to keep holding your head up all day.

A proper, safe driving posture involves maintaining a slight forward-flexed position in your neck and head – think of "tucking your chin slightly".

But what's the best way to achieve this?

Some people find that adjusting their headrest can help maintain a more relaxed lower back while they drive. Remember though that you shouldn't have to slouch or strain your neck muscles just to look up into that rearview mirror.

And if necessary, ask someone else to check over your work before you hit the road!

3)  Avoid Over-Stretching Your Back

Even though we may not intentionally mean to do this, many of us end up overstretching our lower backs by leaning backwards or twisting too far forwards when getting into a vehicle before starting out on a trip.

Remember that you want to stay close to the steering wheel while you drive so you should sit far enough back from the edge of your seat, and it's important not to twist or lean too far in either direction.

4)  Sit Up Straight

In addition to up straight, keep those thighs parallel to the ground and feet at the top of the pedals. This position can help minimize lower back strain from driving for extended periods of time each day.

5) Position Your Seat

Driving with your seat cushions can help provide some extra lower back support that you otherwise might not get while behind the wheel. It's also helpful in maintaining a proper driving posture! Remember though that you should remove it when you're done driving, too!

6) Lean Forward Slightly When Approaching a Stop

It may seem counter-intuitive, but when approaching a stop sign or red light, try leaning forward slightly in your seat before coming to a complete stop. Driving this way helps reduce pressure on your lower body and reduces overall tension in your muscles.

7) Take Breaks

Driving for extended periods of time can be stressful on your lower back, posture and overall well-being, so take breaks when you can. Of course, if you're in heavy traffic or stuck in a long line, that's not always possible. But even if it's just a quick 10-minute power nap at the side of the road, the benefits may be worth it!

Keep your lower back supported

When you're behind the wheel, it can be easy to slouch over and assume an awkward seated position that will only aggravate your lower back pain. That's why it's important to sit up when you drive, maintain proper posture, and keep your lower back supported.

Unfortunately, many people aren't aware of the importance of good posture when driving. But if you feel like it's too hard to maintain an upright position for hours on end, consider modifying your route to include public transportation or carpooling!

All this will go a long way in helping prevent back pain while driving.

Taking these steps can help reduce lower back pain while driving before it even starts – whether you're commuting each day or just taking a quick trip down the street.

Does your lower back hurt after driving? Get it over with!

Having lower back pain after a long car ride is often due to the strain of sitting for hours, maintaining the same posture without proper breaks, or resting improperly.

While there's no way to completely avoid lower back pain while driving (after all, we spend much of our waking lives in the driver's seat!), taking these seven steps could help!


With nearly 9 years of experience in the medical field, Marijune holds a registered nurse license and a certificate as a mental health nurse practitioner. She is an adventurous young professional, and her hobbies include diving, windsurfing, and saber fencing. As an avid writer, she is most passionate about sharing acquired knowledge in the medical field and how to apply it to improve the quality of life of our readers. more
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