Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Ten tips for driving with back pain and sciatica symptoms

When I had severe back pain and sciatica symptoms I found driving to be the task that was the most difficult for me and was one of the things that still caused me to get radiating pain down my legs even when I was so much better. I need to drive for my job, for a social life and just to get things done so I tried to work out what might be the things that would help me to be able to drive with the least amount of stress on my back.

One of the main difficulties with the whole process of driving is that you are essentially sitting still in a fairly confined space for long stretches at a time with little or no back movement.

 People who drive for longer distances can be at risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis), dehydration, swelling of the legs, stress and fatigue in the muscles. Often one foot is more active than the other as you accelerate etc and one hip can be pushed into an unnaturally higher position for long periods of time.

However there are things you can easily do to minimize the effects of prolonged driving.

1. Try out different driving time limits to suit you. I usually find an hour is long enough for me to drive without a break, but not too long ago I could only drive for 30 minutes at a time. Whatever your limits take regular breaks and get out of the car. Walk around, do any back pain relief stretches and just move around for about 10 -15 minutes. If you are stopping at a service station do not just go and sit in the café but move and walk around.

2. Do not carry your mobile phone or wallet in your back pocket. If you do it can create an abnormal sitting position tilting one hip higher which may cause you to have more problems.

3. Do use a lumbar support cushion. If your car already has a lumbar support which is adjustable that is good but if not a lumbar support cushion will work as well to give extra support for your bad back.

4. Try using a heat pad (if OK for you ) to ease aches and pains of a bad back and sciatica symptoms when driving. You can get ones which last up to 8 hours and are very thin so will not show and will not cause you to be uncomfortable when sitting. They deliver a constant therapeutic heat which can be very beneficial to ease back pain and pinched sciatic nerve symptoms. Some cars may have heated seats which may do a similar job.

5. If it is a longer journey if possible try to share the driving. Sitting for long periods of time is difficult for many people with back pain and sciatica symptoms so you will still benefit from regular breaks, but being a passenger is a little less stressful on your back and you may be able to move around a bit more in the seat while traveling.

6. Do your back care stretches before you start the journey, anytime you can during the journey ,in breaks and after the journey.

7. Drink plenty of water during the journey; it is easy to get dehydrated which is not good for you or your back.

8. Try to maintain a good driving posture; this is easier if you are taking regular breaks.

9. After the journey has ended, get a warm bath or shower for about 20 minutes to relax you and your muscles.

10. If possible and if it is OK for you a relaxing massage may be beneficial.

So to summarize….
  • Have short periods of driving
  • Get out of the car often for breaks and walk around
  • Stretch
  • Remove wallet or mobile phone
  • Use a lumbar support for your back
  • Use a heat pad to warm the muscles in your back
  • If possible share driving.
  • Do your back care stretches before driving, every time you take a break and after driving.
  • Warm bath or shower after driving.
  • Massage
For more information on Driving with Sciatic and Back Pain please click here

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