Do you drop off the kids or drive with neck pain or nagging shoulder aches to work each morning? How about bringing a bag, purse, or carry-on item while you drive? Do you spend at least 20-30 minutes on average driving? Does your pain prevent you from reaching overhead, turning your neck all the way, reaching or behind your back? If you’re driving with neck and shoulder pain, this might be the most important thing you read this year!
If you are like most Americans, you spend an average of 17,600 minutes in a car each year! In fact, that’s over 290 hours a year you spend with that nagging little reminder in your neck that something isn’t quite right. The good news is that January & February are actually the months with the least time spent driving! That means now is the time to correct behaviors, postures and fix the root problem before “driving season” picks up again as we head towards spring. Driving with neck pain must be corrected with changes in behavior and corrected posture.
My name is Dr. Alexander Borja, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Health Fitness Specialist, and advocate of natural healing & health. As a physical therapist myself, I educate the local community on how to modify behaviors and, essentially, your entire lifestyle to reduce the risk of your current or past musculoskeletal injuries. Over the years I have compiled several questions and concerns from clients suffering from neck or shoulder pain. Many of these concerns come from driving.
I will now go over the top 3 mistakes that people make while driving that is causing their neck and shoulder problem to not only stagnate but actually get worse.
The first mistake is for those who routinely reach into the passenger or back seat of their car. One of the riskiest positions for the shoulder and neck is that moment when you reach back into the back seat to grab something, lift and pull the object towards you. If you have items you carry in either the passenger or the back seat, at some point you will need to reach for them. It’s totally risky and where I see a lot of injuries happen.
have severe shoulder pain, I would avoid it altogether. I would also recommend never reaching into the back seat from the driver’s seat for any reason.
The fix: For smaller items under 5lbs, keep them on the passenger side and once you reach your destination, it should be safe to reach for the object. For items over 5lbs, they are ok on the passenger’s side but you should load and unload them from the passenger’s side door, avoiding reaching over in the car to grab them. Always avoid reaching into the back seat for any reason. Back seat items should be loaded and unloaded from the rear doors only.
The second mistake most people make is posture control & not utilizing their car’s features to the fullest! If you drive a modern car, you likely have heated seats. Use this to your advantage! Heated seats will help with your neck, shoulder, and lower back pain by relaxing tight muscles. Besides that point, it also feels great!
The other feature many cars have is lumbar support. This is important and will actually help with your neck and shoulder pain significantly. You’ll want to set the lumbar support in such a way as to create a significant arch in your lower back. You should feel well supported and because your back is arched more than you’re used to, you will feel as though your stomach is pushed forward excessively. It might even get uncomfortable, perhaps in your low to mid-back, and beginners should set this strict posture for only 30-45 minutes at a time per day until they get used to it. This is normal and is setting your neck, shoulders, and lower back into proper alignment.
What if you don’t have these features in your car? You can turn a cold seat into a hot seat by purchasing a heating pad for your car. They even make pads specifically for car seats now that will fit your seat nicely! For the lumbar support, I recommend using a rolled-up towel that is duck tapped and tightly rolled, or if you want something more permanent, specialized lumbar rolls I use with my clients can be found on my website at borjapt.com for a discount.
The third mistake is how you use your seat belt. Reaching for the seat belt can be performed with either hand and the majority of us simply reach back with our left hand. While this may work for most, it can cause a ton of pain in those with rotator cuff problems. Instead, reach with the right arm with a slight rotation in the body towards the left to help it along. I have found that most of my clients will get shoulder or chest cramps when they reach across their body with the right arm towards the seat belt.
To reduce the chance of this happening, turn your body towards the left (towards the seat belt) as you reach with your right arm. Got right shoulder pain? It’s just the opposite for you. You’ll want to reach back using your left arm instead. Can’t do that either? No worries, when entering your car, simply sit back into it like a chair while using the door or handle inside the door frame for support. Once seated, grab onto the seat belt with either hand and take the seat belt with you as you turn your body to face forwards toward the dashboard.
So those are the top 3 mistakes people make while driving that is causing more neck and shoulder pain. Following the advice in this article will help with reducing dependency on pain pills, injections, or enduring a risky surgery! The outlined mistakes here, however, are just the beginning. There are far more details and modifications you can make in your daily lifestyle to prevent further neck and shoulder pain. If you would like to learn more about identifying migraines and headaches, click here.
The next step is learning how to modify the rest of your lifestyle to prevent further injury. You can get this in one comprehensive and complimentary guide, “7 Easy Things You Can Do To Ease Chronic, Stiff & Nagging Neck & Shoulder Pain…Without Medications, Injections, or Risky Surgery”. In this guide, I will go over how to solve your pain and methods to begin the healing process without risk of re-injury. Just click here to get it free.
If getting back to a pain-free lifestyle so you can return to exercise, driving, yard work, housekeeping activity, and spending quality time with friends and family, is important to you then this free guide is for you. You can get it instantly by visiting www.borjapt.com/resources.
I hope that guide will allow you to reduce pain and enjoy life as it has many others.
To your health,
Dr. Alexander Borja, Pain & Movement Expert
P.S. If you have neck or shoulder pain and want help to immediately alleviate your pain and restore function, I would be willing to take a look at your shoulder or neck free of charge. Just call 586-884-4565 and ask for Deanna. Tell her, “I would like to take Dr. Borja’s Fast Pain Relief Discovery Session”, and she will get you all set up. You can alternatively, click the giant button below.