Article Reviewed & Updated on 8/26/2022

Medical Reviewer: Kari Haberman

Everyone spends a lot of time driving. Commuting to and from work, running errands or going to special events, we spend all that time getting stuck in the car seat.

And what comes with all that time sitting behind the wheels? To some, it's just discomfort, but in most cases, leg pain occurs, especially in the right leg.

Why is it the right leg? It’s because the right leg does all the heavy lifting when you drive, and sometimes it can get stiff and sore when you’ve been driving for extended hours without a rest.

If your job requires a lot of driving like being a tractor-trailer driver, USPS or a bus driver, then you already know the disadvantages of driving.

This includes discomfort, aches, and pains of the legs and lower back that can be experienced with prolonged hours of driving. Luckily there are ways to relieve that pain and help prevent it without having to see a specialist doctor. 

What Causes Pain in Your Right Leg While Driving

Leg pain occurs when the nerves in your back and legs are pinched or compressed for long periods of time. Sitting wrong in a chair, or something pressing against those nerves for a prolonged period can cause numbness and pain.

Often times, seats in your car are not designed for ergonomic positioning while driving. For most of us, you can not fully stretch your legs all the way out while driving and it is hard to reposition the chair to provide back support that feels best.

Your right leg can especially get painful since it is doing all of the work controlling the breaks and accelerator while you drive around, and especially if you don’t have cruise control.

 If you don’t have cruise control for those long trips, the muscles in your legs will cramp up and get stiff from being in specific positions, especially your right leg. Your whole leg can cramp up and ache from being stuck in one position.

       Image Credit (Licensed): Shutterstock

Your right leg will take the brunt of the pain caused by driving for long distances.

Your knees and hips are held at a specific angle for long periods of time, causing tension in the muscles throughout your legs. The nerve that suffers the most in these cases is your sciatic nerve.

A very common cause of leg pain in healthy people is putting pressure on the sciatic nerve by sitting still for long periods of time without additional movement like driving.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It starts in your lower back, splits in two at the hips and runs down the back of your leg to your feet. Prolonged pressure on the sciatic nerve is the number one cause of right leg pain while driving.

Common Symptoms of Right Leg Pain

The most common symptoms of right leg pain while driving are numbness, tingling or your foot falling asleep altogether. Aches and stiffness are also extremely common with right leg pain from driving.

We can all agree that the tingling or feeling of needles in your legs is the worst, right?

The sudden dread that washes over you as you realize your leg has fallen asleep and then sensations that will follow as you start to move it around to get the blood flowing again. The dance you perform and the faces and complaining that ensues will make everyone else laugh at your pain.

Okay, so your leg falling asleep is not the worst that can happen, but it sure feels like it at the time.

Knee pain and stiffness is definitely the worst, especially if it sticks around even after stretching and moving around. It can feel like a balloon is in there, slowly expanding and causing a lot of discomfort and pain. This can be especially so if you already have joint problems, to begin with.

Thankfully there are numerous ways to alleviate and prevent symptoms that will afflect your right leg while driving those long distances. 

No need to dish out hundreds of dollars for expensive equipment or visiting specialty doctors. Hallelujah to modern medicine and technology!

Read Related Article: How to Stop Knee Pain While Driving

8 Ways To Reduce Right Leg Pain

Great news! There are simple and inexpensive ways to help you deal with right leg pain while driving. There are easy to use tools like wedge cushions and mesh back support systems that you can purchase online to install on the car seats that will help you defeat leg pain.

These devices will help with pain in your legs by providing additional support to your lower back and hips. Maintaining good posture while driving is your first line of defense against pain. 

     1. Wedge cushions are a great option as they are very comfortable and soft, but will still provide the necessary support your hips need for those long driving sessions.

Wedge cushions help by creating a cushion between the nerves in your legs and the seat beneath you. This helps in preventing them from being compressed as much.

car seat wedge gel

 

 View Gel Car Wedge Cushion (with Leg Extender) on Amazon

By preventing the compression that happens to the sciatic nerves in your legs, you can sit for longer periods of time, which is fantastic for those cross-country trips or long periods of time stuck in rush-hour traffic.

car seat cushion

View Mesh Car Wedge Cushion (Leg Extender Option)

     2. Taking breaks during long road trips is another great method of reducing right leg pain while driving.

You can stretch your legs and walk around while getting gas or hitting up a rest area along the way. Hit the vending machines or wander around and snap some unique photos. 

      3. Pre-drive stretching is another method to prevent leg pain on those long driving sessions.

It will give the muscles the chance to get ready for the long session of tension; it will be enduring as you drive. It will work the same way as if you are about to do some serious exercise or activities.

      4. Post-drive stretching will help your muscles to relax, and keep them in better condition overall. Stretching will help to relieve any built-up tension still lingering in your muscles from driving, which will help keep the pain away.

      5. Mesh back support systems can also help with pain in the legs and your lower back. They provide additional support for your back, which can reduce the pressure placed on the nerves from prolonged sitting. You can check out review videos on different brands to see which one will fit your needs best.

lumbar support for car

 View Mesh Back Lumbar Support on Amazon

      6. Use muscle-relaxant ointments like Tiger Balm or IcyHot to help keep the muscles relaxed as your drive and help alleviate any pain that does come along on the long trips. You can also ask your doctor about taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help keep the discomfort at bay.

      7. Wear loose-fitting clothes that are comfortable and won’t restrict your movements or apply extra pressure on your legs as you sit. Tight-fitting clothes add unnecessary strain on the thighs when you are sitting, and some pants can even add extra stress at the knees. So still with loose clothing to eliminate that additional factor.

      8. The use of a warm and cold compress is one of the most readily available and effective treatments for pain. Both of them help but differ in physiological effects. In the case of leg pain, due to repetitive motions or muscle cramps from driving, applying heat will help in most cases. However, it does not mean that cold compress or ice therapy has no value. If you are not familiar with when to use hot or cold therapy, be sure to know the difference.

knee ice pack

 View Hot Cold Packs on Amazon

 

Give Your Legs and Nerves a Break from Pain and Pressure

Giving the nerves a break from the pressure of sitting will prevent it from getting too painful in the future, and make your ride a lot less stressful and more enjoyable. Plus, think of all the cool and unique memories you can make by stopping and looking around.

FAQ - Common Questions Asked  

 

1.) Can Driving Cause Sciatica?

Driving requires sitting in the same position for a long time while travelling. The Sciatica nerve moves through the fibres that exit the spinal column. The exit can be on either side of the spinal column and go into the buttock or gluteal region.  

The Sciatica veins control and send signals to the hamstring muscles and control their movement through the body. Prolonged sitting may cause sciatica pain.

2.) Can Driving Aggravate Sciatica?

Driving and flying for long hours can aggravate sciatica pain in the body and have long-term affects. Therefore, carrying a pillow or other comfortable essentials while driving can help minimize pain.

3.) What is Drivers' Leg Syndrome?

Driver's leg syndrome, also called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or illis-Ekbom disease, is a sleep disorder that causes an urge to move legs and arms while sleeping. It may also cause other bodily sensations, such as:

- Aching

- Burning

- Crawling

- Creeping

    - Itching

    - Pulling

    - Throbbing

    - Tugging

      4.) Should You Drive with Sciatica?

      While you can drive with Sciatica, only do so for short periods. Prolonged driving requires keeping your legs in one position, increasing theyour pain.

      Drivers should take breaks regular breaks while driving to either take a small walk or move their legs. Driving a few miles shouldn't be a problem, but any longer could aggrevate your condition.

      5.) What Causes Leg Cramps While Driving?

      Leg cramps can occur for various reasons but sitting in the same position for long hours is the main one. The right leg is most vulnerable in this situation because it's under consistent stress. It's used for hitting the gas while driving.

      Similarly, the left foot alternates between the clutch and the brakes when necessary. Excessive use of the right leg can cause severe muscle tension in the right leg, leading to Sciatica in the legs.

      6.) How to Stop Leg Cramps While Driving?

      You can control leg cramps while driving by:

      • Dehydration is a major cause of leg cramps while driving. Drivers should drink plenty of water while they drive so that they can avoid Sciatica nerve pain.

      • Staying in one position can slow down blood flow in the legs and causes cramps. Drivers should stretch their legs once in a while if they’ve been driving for a long time. People with sciatica pain are at a higher risk of getting leg cramps.

      • Performing repetitive ice therapy on your legs after driving can also minimize leg cramps while driving. Icing 2-3 times daily can help reduce pain.

      Pain-Free Driving is Much More Enjoyable

      Preventing lower back and leg pain while driving will make your trips much more enjoyable. If you love driving around and taking trips, but hate the aches and pains you suffer from sitting still for all that time, then why not give these eight tricks a try and see the difference they’ll make.

      If you already have your own methods for making driving long distances more comfortable, just add them and try them out.

      Read Related Articles Below:

      7 Ways to Stop Knee Pain When Driving

       

      Top 10 Triggers to Avoid Sciatica Flare-Ups

      what causes sciatica to flare up

       

      Top 5 Exercises for Sciatica Pain

      exercises for sciatica

       About the Author:

      MARIJUNE TIAMZON

      With nearly 5 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.