5 Tips for Better Driving Posture
By Osteopath, Ellie Watts
Stiffness, aching and reduced mobility in the low back, neck and shoulders are common signs you could improve your driving posture.
The body is designed for movement. Blood needs pumping, lymphatics have to flow and muscles need to move to get rid of toxic bi-products that buildup. Driving limits our movement for hours a day, putting an unnatural demand on our muscles and joints.
Driving requires sustained contraction of many of the postural muscles.
Shoulder and neck muscles contract to hold the steering wheel and leg/pelvis muscles contract to change gear, break etc. These sustained contractions cause the muscles to shorten in order to reduce the amount of energy effort needed. Short muscles reduce the mobility available around a joint and prevent proper nutrition from getting to the area. No wonder our backs and necks are stiff!
Other common symptoms of shortened muscles (particularly in the neck and shoulders) are headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of concentration and general malaise or tiredness.
Time in the car is a great space to start putting in place some good habits to lengthen your muscles and keep you pain free.
Try out these 5 practices to improve your posture and see the difference it makes to your day:
- Lateral neck stretches (video): hold under your seat or sit on one hand. Bend your neck away from that side. You should feel the stretch down the side of your neck. If that isn't strong enough, place your other hand on the side of your head and gently lengthen the stretch by applying a small amount of pressure.
- Arm-cross (video): Cross one arm across your chest and gently apply pressure to the elbow to stretch the muscles between your shoulder blades.
- Lumbar support with towel (see picture above left): roll a bath towel up into a column shape. Place the column vertically up the centre your lower spine. The towel should support the whole of your lower spine. This helps to bring your shoulders back and down and take the pressure off the lower vertebrae and discs. You should also be bale to take a fully, deeper breath.
- Spine Rolls (video):perfect at the traffic lights. As you’re sitting, drop your head and gently roll down your spine vertebrae by vertebrae feeling the stretch as you go. Come up when you're ready and repeat until the light turns green!
- Mindfulness practices: by taking a moment to stop, take a deep breath and quiet our thoughts it automatically helps to reduce cortisol levels in the blood. Balancing stress hormones helps to relax your whole body and deliver you to work in a better mood.