Our fondness for driving goes hand-in-hand with our tendency to shy away from exercise. Often, we will hop in the car, rather than walk down to the shops or to school or work. Whilst this may save us time, in the long term it may also increase our chances of developing back problems and other health problems  It is well known that people who lead active lifestyles are less likely to die early, or to experience major illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.

Unfortunately for some people, spending long periods of time sitting in a car is unavoidable (e.g. taxi drivers, bus drivers, salespeople). The constant vibration of the wheels on the road, hunching over or gripping the steering wheel, sitting in the same position and stretching to depress the clutch or see out of the mirror, all take their toll on your back. It;s not just the driver who can stiffen up in a car either – passengers are often seated for long periods of time in a fixed position.

If you do spend a lot of time in your car, there are a number of things you can try to make yourself more comfortable:

  • bring your seat forward so that you can depress the clutch without having to stretch
  • adjust your mirrors properly
  • take regular breaks, ideally once an hour
  • try to avoid twisting when getting into or out of the car
  • keep a small cushion in the car to support your lower back
  • choose a car that is suited to your needs.

Choosing the Right Car

The Praying Test – Place both hands together, pointing forwards. You should be pointing straight at the centre of the steering wheel.

The First Test – Make a fist with your left hand, keeping the thumb to the side of the index finger. If you have sufficient headroom then it should be possible to insert the fist on the crown of the head.

The Right Leg Test – After driving the car for a short while, look down and examine the position of your right leg. Your right foot should still be roughly in line with your right thigh.

The Kerb Height Test – Swing your right leg out of the car as though you are getting out, and place your right foot on the ground. The surface of your right thigh should be sloping downwards (not upwards) towards your right knee.

These tests should only be performed then the are is stationary and carefully parked.

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