The sun is shining and for many the temptation to roll down the car window to feel the breeze with an elbow on the ledge for a ‘trucker tan’ tan is too much to resist.
While most drivers would have done this, a sports physical therapy and rehabilitation specialist says it’s one of the bad driving habits that could cause you chronic injuries in the future.
Victoria Joyce, a clinical lecturer at Liverpool Hope University, says drivers sitting in traffic may assume positions — such as resting your elbow out the window, having your seat too far back, or even gripping the steering wheel incorrectly — that this bad for our body.
Below are her top five tips for body position at the wheel that will help prevent future health problems.
Chronic shoulder pain: A clinical tutor says many truck drivers come to her physical clinic complaining of pain caused by resting their elbow out the window
The physiotherapist says poor posture behind the wheel can lead to a host of musculoskeletal problems, the most important of which is the dreaded low back pain or ‘LBP’.
Victoria, a strength and rehabilitation coach and also a former track and field athlete, advises motorists to try to identify and remedy any problems they experience while driving before they develop into “chronic” injuries.
She explains: ‘The commute, or long journeys in general, can be really useless if one is sitting in the same position for an extended period of time.
‘A number of factors can come into play – from the make of the car, the layout of the cabin, to the position the person takes while driving.
‘For example, if you’ve pushed your seat too far back, it’s not at the right height, or even rest your elbow on the windowsill while holding the steering wheel, all of these can cause painful irritation.
Victoria Joyce of Liverpool Hope University is a strength and rehabilitation coach and physiotherapist
“It’s even more of an issue when you drive for a living, where habit-compromised posture, coupled with inactivity and the potential for unhealthy eating, can all contribute to potential health and injury problems.”
One of the most pressing concerns for Victoria is the impact commuting can have on sensitive backs.
She adds: ‘Low back pain is an ongoing burden on our population, despite decades of research, varied advice and new techniques introduced to try to address LBP problems.
“Since two-thirds of people who go through an episode of LBP are more than likely to have a painful recurrence within a year, it goes without saying that it has a significant benefit in preventing further episodes.”
“Poor posture commuting is, again, a risk factor for LRP that needs to be addressed.”
So what might you be doing wrong when you hit the road and how can you correct it?
Victoria Joyce gave us her five best posture-related tips for drivers…
Reaching too far to operate the pedals could be a cause of low back pain for drivers, warns Victoria
1. Seating Position Tips
‘The basic principle here is to sit upright – shoulders and head back – with the seat as high as is comfortable and still be able to operate the car.
“Your legs shouldn’t be too straight or too bent where your knees touch the bottom of the handlebars, as this can aggravate the hamstrings.”
2. Don’t reach too far for the pedals
“When your foot is on the accelerator, your leg is in a so-called ‘plantarflex’ position, with the foot and toes in a pointed position.
“If you sit too far back, this position will force you to reach for the accelerator and over time it can cause discomfort in both the straight leg and back due to pelvic misalignment.”
Drivers are told that this hand position on the handlebars is the safest and best for being in full control at all times. Victoria says it’s best for your body too
3. Hands at 10 and 2 o’clock is also the best for your body
“Remember that while driving you are exposed to small movements, small oscillations of the road.
“If you’re in a bad position, these light movements for extended periods of time can actually contribute to irritation of parts of the body or even aggravate injuries.
“My advice is to keep both hands on the wheel in a ten to two position — left hand at 10 o’clock and right hand at 2 o’clock — so that the body is balanced and these movements have minimal effect.”
4. Elbow out the window will result in a summer trucker tan — and possible shoulder pain
‘I’ve had quite a few truck drivers come to see me in the physio clinic with shoulder pain. And it can happen to anyone who does this: rest your arm or elbow on the window frame, while also holding the steering wheel.
“It’s something a lot of people do without realizing the problems this riding position poses.
“For me, it’s about motorists being aware of how their subtle behaviors can affect their bodies — because education is an important part of the rehabilitation process when it comes to injuries.”
Victoria says many visitors to her physical therapy clinic are truck drivers who have sustained chronic shoulder injuries from resting their arm on an open window frame while driving
5. Stay hydrated and stop to stretch your legs during long stints behind the wheel to avoid cramps
“On longer journeys, plan to stop regularly — about every hour — so you can get out of the car and get around.
“This move is very important – because it stimulates all the vital systems in your body, helps you stay healthy and prevent injury. Also, stay well hydrated.
‘Many people limit their fluid intake on longer trips because of concerns about having to stop to go to the toilet.
‘But this is not good for your body, which leads to muscle cramps, loss of concentration and even injuries. It’s essential that you stay hydrated when you’re behind the wheel.’
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