Perfect Car Seating Posture Guide
Stop Moving My Seat!
I really hate it when someone else drives my car. I’m sure you’ve felt the same when someone else has moved every aspect of your car seat and you have to spend ages resetting it. Your car seat is very much like your workstation in that you can spend hours sitting there and if you are in the wrong position it can add stress and strain to your joints.
Posture is so important to your health, any time you have to use a seat - such as in your car or at work - you should have it set up so that it puts the least amount of wear on your joints.
I have been known in my chiropractic clinic to set my patients' driving position up for them in the clinic car park. I know how you should sit and have used this experience to help many of my patients relieve their back pain in the car and feel more comfortable and relaxed while driving.
We spend a huge amount of time in our cars - on average 10 hours a week. I see in my patients' cars that they try to maintain a very upright position, which is not only bad for the spine and posture but also can be alarmingly close to the airbag.
Stop Sitting Upright For Better Health
This idea of sitting upright has been around since the Victorian days, but actually has no research to support it in modern times.
Surely Upright Helps The Spine Stay Straight?
Your spine isn't straight! It has 3 normal curves when you look from the side, so sitting upright is difficult for the human body. Gravity causes you to put all your body weight through the spine until it is all resting on the lowest joints of your lower back. After 10-20 minutes fatigue will kick in and you’re likely to either lean on one armrest (creating uneven force on one side) - or worse, you’ll start slouching, collapsing your lower back curve into the seat and rounding your shoulders forwards.
Perfect Car Posture
The answer is to make your car setup work harder and actually support you, so you stop overloading your joints.
Follow our guide to reduce strain and wear on your lower back as you allow the car seat to support more of your weight. Frankly it also feels a lot more comfortable!
How To Sit
The first idea of good posture is that sitting down should be similar to standing. We know that sounds strange, but we don't mean you should be bolt upright. Your joints are less stressed when open. When you sit, you don’t want to form these harsh 90-degree angles at your hips and knees. You need to straighten your joints up and make your sitting posture closer to standing.
1.Recline Your Chair
Lean your car seat back. Research agrees that leaning your chair back opens the hip angle. By leaning back you now relax your shoulders and keep your posture back.
Don’t slouch! Slouching is when your bottom comes forward and there is a gap between the seat back and you. Make sure your lower back is against the seat back.
When sitting upright, gravity puts your weight and stress on the lower back and hip joints. You need to get your hips away from your upper body so they both have less strain on them.
2. Correct Lumbar Support
This is a curve in the car seat that pushes into your lower back curve so the chair can help support it. Make sure the lumbar support is all the way out so it is nice and big. If it doesn't have one, or it isn't big enough, simply add a foam lumbar roll. They normally come with a strap that goes over the seat.
Why Add A Lumbar Support?
Your lower back has a large curve at the bottom and getting the seat to support this curve means less strain on your discs and joints, so less pain and fatigue. A support stops your back from slumping and supports the curve without any effort.
3. Straighten Your Legs
Be careful of bending your knees too much. The pedals should mean your legs are relatively straight, but if you drive an automatic don’t bend the leg you don’t need. Keep it straighter, there might even be a foot rest next to the pedals for it.
Why Straighten Your Legs?
Knee osteoarthritis or ‘wear and tear’ has doubled in the last 60 years with new studies putting the growing problem on diet, weight and sitting.
You have to be careful of putting weight through your legs at the wrong angle for long periods of time. When your knees are bent you load the cartilage. If you then sit forward you place weight through the legs. Your knee is now in a loaded and weak position. This gets a lot worse if you bend your knees more than 90 degrees.
Simply stretch them out and you could reduce the load and wear on the joints.
4. The Seat Bottom
This may not be something you can change, but if your car seat tilts make sure it is very slightly angled down from the back to the front. Ideally, you don’t want it to angle down from the front to the back.
Why Tilt It?
You are aiming to have a larger angle between your upper body and your thighs (hip angle) to reduce pressure on your lower back discs and hip joints.
5. The Steering Wheel
The next stage is to move the steering wheel down slightly to relax your shoulders.
By sitting, you are more reclined and by straightening your legs you may find that you now cannot reach the steering wheel. Simply move your seat one notch forward to fix this. However, as you recline you go a bit lower in the car. Pumping the seat up a bit if possible will help, or you could lower the wheel. Be close enough to comfortably reach but no closer.
Why Move The Steering Wheel?
Having the steering wheel a bit lower stops you from lifting your shoulders up high. Your arms are heavy and the higher you raise them the harder it is for your upper body. After a while your shoulders will get tired, so you will recruit the muscles in your upper back and chest to help support them. As the muscles in your chest and upper back get tired and tight, you are more likely to create a head forward posture. This can create tension, pain and wear-and-tear on the neck and upper back joints.
6. Take A Break
It’s so easy to find an excuse not to stop driving and to carry on instead of taking a break, but is it worth it? On average your concentration drops after just 14 minutes. Even if you are very engaged in what you are doing it will only last 29 minutes. A break of just 1-2 minutes will wake up your concentration and reset your posture.
If you ever feel stiffness getting out of the car after a long journey, it’s a sure sign you need to stop more. The best advice we give patients going on a long drive is to drink a lot of water in the car. A/C is naturally drying to the air so drinking a lot is very important for hydration. But also ensure you take regular breaks and walk to the services bathroom!
Sitting for long periods can lead to poor posture if set up incorrectly. It can cause tight hip flexors and upper thighs, as well as rounded shoulders and forward neck position. To help this in the clinic we go through a posture routine to loosen the stiffness poor posture has created and strengthen the weak muscles. All of this simply because you were taught how to sit incorrectly.
You can reverse poor posture by doing the right exercises in the right order and learning how to sit correctly is part of this. Generic posture exercises are available anywhere and most of the guides are from personal trainers focusing on muscles, but they don’t take into your account your specific joint posture or history so you waste a lot of time working the wrong area.
Our expert-designed program, The Posture Solution, will show you what type of posture you have. By knowing your type you can use our extensive experience treating patients to get the best exercises specifically for you. Fix your posture and improve pain within 90 days.
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