North Americans are spending more time than ever behind the wheel. On average, drivers in the United States reported spending an average of 50.6 minutes on the road driving each day. Many of us may be aware of the importance of proper desk ergonomics but did you know that driving posture either causes or contributes to the aggravation of:
- Neck Pain
- Upper Back Pain
- Lower Back Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Knee Pain
All too often it’s considered that seated jobs are not physically demanding but in fact there are static postural muscle contractions and endurance required to hold sustained positions over time that can be fatiguing. Often drivers are unaware of the dangers associated with driving, which can cause long-term musculoskeletal injuries and pain.
Here we’ll show you how to best minimize and reduce repetitive strain injuries while driving so that you can stay healthier, stronger, and most productive both on and off the job.
MoveSafe Vehicle BIG 3
Physical work should make you healthier and stronger, not wear you out and lead you to injury. Firstly, let’s talk about preparing and maintaining your body and setting up your work area and equipment, with the MoveSafe Vehicle Big 3. This set-up is important to protect your body from back, neck, shoulder, and arm strains resulting in painful injuries from driving.
1. Prepare and Maintain the Body
When preparing and maintaining your body, make sure that you have:
- Stable base
- Shoulders anchored
- Arms at sides
Stable Base: Have your feet supported on the floor with thighs evenly supported by the vehicle seat. Ensure knees are aligned (not spraying out).
Shoulders Anchored: Keep your shoulders supported against the chair backrest with head balanced over your shoulders.
Arms at Sides: With shoulders relaxed and your elbows near the sides of the body (not reaching the steering wheel).
2. Prepare the Work Area and Equipment
It’s important to understand what movements your body will need to do while driving and think about what the best ways are to use your body to minimize injuries. By prepping your work area and equipment, you can encourage good posture and movement.
3. The 8 Areas of Your Vehicle to Adjust
1. Seat Tilt
When adjusting your seat tilt, ensure that the seat pan is set to a horizontal position so that your knees are level with your hips. You want to ensure that there is no discomfort in pressure on the back of your legs.
2. Backrest Position
The lumbar support on your back rest should comfortably support you across the small of your back and help you sit up tall. Adjust the backrest angle so that you are fully supported in an up-right and slightly reclined position.
The headrest should support your neck with your head balanced over your shoulders. Be careful not to move the headrest too far forward.
4. Seat Position
Your seat position should allow you to reach the pedals with your knees slightly bent and without sliding your hips forward on the seat. Your heels should stay in contact with the floor when depressing on the panels. You also want to be close enough to the steering wheel to reach it with your elbows bent and arms relaxed at the side of your body comfortably.
5. Steering Wheel
Set the height of the steering wheel so that when you hold the wheel at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position your forearms are parallel to the floor. Allow your arms to hang relaxed at the side of your body where they are not reaching forward. It is suggested to release the steering wheel at red lights to reduce the static grip on your hands.
Adjust the rearview mirror while you are sitting up-right to help you maintain good posture while driving. Position the side mirrors to minimize hunching and neck rotation.
7. Stretch Breaks
Your body will thank you for stretch breaks so plan to stop at least every two hours on long drives and get out of your car.
While seated, keep your hips and shoulders anchored against the seat backrest with your head balanced over shoulders. Avoid reaching out to rest your arm on the centre console or window ledge.
Whether you’re a supervisor, truck driver, a locomotive engineer, an oil and gas field driver, an Occupational Health and Safety Manager, or other professional who spends long hours driving for work, giving your body the care that it needs today will allow you to get your work done for many years to come.
The MoveSafeⓇ Program helps organizations implement healthy posture and movement habits to reduce human and financial costs of musculoskeletal injuries. We work with organizations across a variety of industries including Energy and Utilities, Oil and Gas, Forestry, Manufacturing, Mining, Municipalities and Office Environments across Canada and the United States.