Seven ways to avoid back pain from driving

Herodreamstime Xxl 176463918

Is driving long distance part and parcel of your job? You’re probably not unfamiliar with sometimes feeling the odd twinge in your back after a few hours on the road. We’ve all been there.  Or are you about to set out on a long journey? No one wants to feel their back cramping up halfway through the drive. But it can easily happen. 


That’s because sitting still for long periods of time in the same position, especially in a cramped driver’s seat, can seriously take a toll on your muscles. And you probably fall into the bad habit of 

lapsing into positions which might seem comfortable on the surface but are actually really terrible for your posture!


Over time, cramps and aches in your back can lead to serious health problems. If you’re usually one to brush off any aches and struggle on, it’s time to overhaul your driving habits pronto. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to keep yourself comfy and healthy if you drive a van or car for a living. Here are seven handy tips to help you avoid back pain when you’re in the driver’s seat:


1. First things first, ALWAYS adjust your seat properly

Whether you drive the same vehicle day in and day out or you regularly switch between several, the first thing you should do when you climb in is adjust your seat. 

Not only is having a properly adjusted seat crucial for road safety, but it’ll also work miracles for your posture and overall comfort. Start by adjusting how far your seat is from the steering wheel. Your feet should be able to touch the pedals, with just a small bend allowed in your knees. 

Next, make sure your seat is upright enough. While having it tilted back slightly might seem like the comfiest option, you’ll automatically strain your neck and upper back muscles to reach the steering wheel. And, speaking of steering wheel, make sure your elbows are at roughly a 90 degree angle when you’re gripping it.

Dreamstime Xxl 176463918

2. Don’t forget about your neck, either

As your neck is linked to your back via your spine, it’s important not to overlook it when you’re driving. Make sure your neck rest is properly adjusted so the centre of the back of your head is aligned with the middle of the rest. 

It’s also worth having a play around with your mirrors. The less you need to crane your head around as you drive, the better it’ll be for both your neck and your back. 

3. Love a coffee break? Take them as often as you can

The best cure for back pain when driving long distances is to simply get out of your vehicle. Schedule in regular pitstops throughout your journey, ideally every hour. 

Instead of spending the duration of your break sitting down in a service station café, no matter how tempting it can be, have a walk around. This will allow you to stretch out all of your muscles (including the ones in your back) and get your blood flowing – two things which will ultimately make you feel more relaxed when you get back in your vehicle. Nice. 

4. Spend a few pennies on some additional lumbar support

It might seem weird buying a pillow for your car, but you’ll appreciate it after long days spent on the road! We’re not talking about grabbing a cushion from your sofa as you head out the door. Instead, head online and look up lumbar support pillows. They’ll do you a world of good.

There are many options specifically designed for driving and they should be positioned behind your lower back. As well as cushioning, they can help you maintain good posture by forcing you to arch your back inwards instead of letting it curve outwards.

Already on the road? Create a makeshift pillow by rolling up a jumper and positioning it behind your lower back. Every little helps.

Pexels Ketut Subiyanto 4246120 (1)

5. Doing some heavy lifting? Practice proper lifting techniques

If part of your job is to unload and load heavy items from your vehicle, you might find this is contributing to your back pain. It doesn’t need to, though! Simply practicing safe lifting techniques will have a huge impact.

For starters, make sure you always bend your knees instead of simply leaning over when picking something up. You should also know your limits – if something is really heavy or bulky, get someone to give you a hand instead of struggling on your own. Remember, being a tough guy doesn’t always work in the long run!

Dreamstime Xxl 124754047 1

6. Make sure your vehicle is always in tip-top condition

It’s not just your seat and neck rest which need to be kept in check. Having a poorly maintained vehicle can have a huge impact on how smooth the road feels when you’re driving. From potholes to speed bumps, some surfaces have the potential to seriously jar your spine!

To avoid this, always replace worn tires and shock absorbers as soon as you notice they’re a little worse for wear. It can also help to lower your tyre pressure so your vehicle has more bounce. Seat feel a little thin? Pad it out with a car pillow which sits on the base of your seat.

7. Use the power of heat

Trying to save on petrol by not switching on your heating? It’s not worth it. The cold can cause your muscles to tighten which, after several hours, can lead to serious aching. Having a warm vehicle should help loosen the muscles in your back and stop them from seizing up. It’ll also be a much nicer and cosier place to spend a few hours too.

There’s also the option of taking a heat pack with you in case your back starts to feel a little tense. Many can even be plugged into the auxiliary socket! Feeling fancy? Drive a vehicle with heated seats.


After more driving tips to help make your job a little bit easier? Take a look at our guides to staying healthy on long distance journeys and destressing when you’re on the road.

See more articles

More from Europcar