Ask long distance commuters, salespeople or delivery people who spend more than three hours a day in their car how they feel about freeway driving. The probable answer for many: "it’s a pain in the back."
Studies have found that workers who spend at least half their time in an automobile are three times more likely than average workers to have back pain. It’s freeway back misery when you add traffic, tension, adjusting a Bluetooth headset, shuffling CDs, or changing the dial on your iPod as you manage the wheel.
Do you give up your job and home commute? "Ideally yes, but this is not a practical solution. Better yet, educate yourself to a back care preventive program that will allow you to cope with life in the fast lane," stresses Dr Kam Raiszadeh, a spine surgeon and director at Alvarado Hospital.
Dr Raiszadeh offers these easy "good back" tips for road-weary commuters:
- Stretch out slowly in the morning. Avoid vigorous exercise because it is at this time that discs are most filled with fluid and especially prone to injury.
- If you are headed out the door for your commute, put your wallet in your breast pocket. The bulk of a wallet can press on the sciatic nerve when you sit and drive.
- If you use your mobile phone in the car, remember to use your Bluetooth headset, don’t cradle the phone on your neck while you drive as it can increase your build-up of back and neck strain. Also, if your seat is too soft it could be adding more stress to your back.
- While you are driving, learn to recognise tension. Put on relaxing music. Try reducing muscle tension by stretching one leg and arm at a time. But be careful not to fall asleep at the wheel.
- Park your car the farthest possible from where you work. The walk will do you and your back good, and it may be the only exercise you’ll grab before you begin the commute home again.
(Source: Alvarado Hospital: March 2009)