How to Position Your Car Seat to Prevent Pain

We asked Dr. Lain: How do I position my car seat to prevent pain?

Over my years in practice, one of the many questions/complaints I receive is about the proper way to sit in a car.

“My car has the awesome lumbar support but my low back still hurts while driving”.

“Man, my old pick up with the bench seat was much more comfortable than this new car I have”.

I started looking into this more.

What I found is that new cars have one thing in common — bucket seats.

Yea they look nice, feel good for about 30 seconds and then bam! The backache starts.

Now if you live in a town like Austin, you sit in your car for long periods of time each day because of traffic. So how do you make your seat work to your advantage?

Let’s explore why the newer seats aren’t so spine friendly.

Most bucket seats cause you to lean back in your seat, much like a recliner.

Comfortable, right? Until you fall asleep driving because it’s designed to mimic the recliner!

But I digress. Leaning back puts a strain on the muscles surrounding the low back.

Stay in that position and the muscles fatigue and they and become painful over time.

The lumbar support must be positioned just right.

Your lower back has a natural curvature to it. There is such thing as too much curvature just as not having enough curvature.

Most people use too much lumbar support, or the support is positioned too low or too high on the spine. This creates muscle imbalance and tension.

The head piece.

Have you seen these things lately? Most actually lean forward!

You see, your neck also has a natural curvature to it called a kyphosis.

Imagine a c-shaped curve with the C opening facing towards your back. Now when you are meant to have this curvature and the headpiece leans forward, you are decreasing this curvature leading to muscle imbalance and tension because muscles are working too hard to try to bring you back to normal.

Now, let’s make it more complex.

Your eyes always want to be on the horizon. Your entire spine will try to compensate to allow for this.

So, you’ve been staring at your phone all day, then get on your Ipad, then sleep on a pillow that is too big and fluffy.

All of this will decrease the curvature in your neck, causing your eyes to want to lower their resting position from the horizon to 90% lower.

However, my low back says no and will increase its natural curvature to bring your eyes to the horizon.

Now I get into a bucket seat, increase my lumbar support but the head piece decreases my neck curvature and now my body is fighting for a normal position. Hence, the pain!

The solution to car seat pain.

So here is my solution, turn your lumbar support all the way down, position your seat so that your eyes are on the horizon and use a throw pillow that can give a minimal amount of lumbar support. This allows you to give the right amount of support in the right position of the back.

Now, you can’t do much about the head piece, so you will need to make sure you stretch daily to help stabilize that area.

One way to do this is through our spinal hygiene program you can purchase here at Benevida. Yes, it is called a hygiene program because, just like you have personal hygiene for your teeth and body, you need to have steps for daily hygiene for your spine. Call us or stop by to purchase your hygiene kit today!

I hope this has given you some good thoughts for positioning your seat for a better commute to and from home! In your health!

Dr. Lain, D.C.