Improve comfort as a pro driver with these tips
Bad habits whilst driving can build over time, potentially resulting in chronic health problems. Being confined in a small space for hours on end can affect the body’s systems. Problems can go beyond musculo-skeletal troubles. Prolonged periods of sitting has been linked to several long term health issues.
With roadworks and delays on the roads our clientele of professional drivers might not always enjoy being behind the wheel but they should at least be comfortable.
So we spoke to our friends at London Brig Pilates for advice. Instructor Brigit Brown highlighted 7 good habits for professional drivers to adopt and exercises to follow whilst sitting in the driver’s seat that could help avoid discomfort.
Here are Brigit’s 7 tips or ‘dos’ to assist with putting things right:
Try not to reach over to the back seat.
The spinal rotation required to perform this movement has a high potential to trigger back and neck pain.
Avoid seats with soft back sections.
Softer backrest cushions can encourage slouching. They may cause important abdominal muscles to switch off.
This poor posture, as we now know, is likely to lead back and neck pain.
Remove your wallet from your back pocket when driving.
You wallet can create an increase of pressure on one point. This can cause the spine to lean to one side.
The wallet can also apply force directly on your sciatic nerve. This is definitely something to avoid. A sharp pain may be experienced down the entire length of the leg.
Enter and exit the vehicle safely.
Use sensible body mechanics to get in and out of the car. It will stand you in good stead in the long run. The lower the driver’s seat the more likely back and neck pain from flexing and rotating the spine are to occur.
When exiting the vehicle, spin your entire body as a unit whilst on the seat. As you prepare to lift yourself help reduce the pressure on your joints. Hold the door frame or steering wheel. Ensure your feet are as much underneath you as possible. Lean forward from your hips. Keep a straight back and stand up carefully.
When entering the vehicle stand close to the driver’s seat. Keep a straight back. Slowly bend both your hips and knees. Holding the door frame or steering wheel will provide some support. Lower your entire body as a unit on the seat. Bring one leg at a time into the car. Higher seats and larger doors are highly recommended for back pain sufferers.
Try to take a break at least every two hours.
We appreciate it’s easy for us to give this advice. However in reality it’s not as easy for professional drivers to achieve this recommendation. It’s vitally important to walk during rest breaks.
Prolonged sitting is thought to be a significant contributory factor in cases of venous thrombosis (blood clot) in the lower extremities. Stopping the vehicle to get out for a quick stroll relaxes the muscles. It restores blood flow to the lower legs and reduces any leg swelling.
Try not to lift heavy objects after a long ride.
We’ve established long periods behind the wheel can lead to muscle fatigue. With the lower back in a poor state of readiness drivers should try to avoid lifting heavy objects immediately after a long journey. There will be a very high chance of developing a lower back complaint.
However, for our; van, courier, chauffeur and taxi clients we realise this may be a part of the service you provide. So, if heavy lifting is necessary after a long drive, do it carefully. Try these tips from the NHS.
Place your side and rear view mirrors to allow a 180 degree view of your rear.
Setting your mirrors in this way will help you to hold the desired posture. Lining your rear view mirror with the top of the rear window could provide a useful visual prompt if you begin to slouch.
Wait, there’s more! Here are 7 ‘moves’ for professional drivers to help ease tension and muscle pains.
To combat uncomfortable driving, Brigit also recommended building simple stretches and strengthening exercises into your daily routine . . .
This exercise mobilises and relaxes the spine as well as stimulating the digestive system and easing bloating. Sit up straight and twist to the right, holding onto the right side of your seat. Keep the posture for 20-30 seconds, breathing freely. Repeat facing the other way.
Place a cushion (or rolled-up jumper) between your knees, keeping feet flat on the floor and hips square.
Squeeze the cushion while engaging the deep abdominals and clenching your buttocks, so you feel the core, inner thighs and bottom muscles contracting.Hold for five seconds and gradually relax, without letting the cushion fall. Repeat six times.
Hands and wrists
Helps to strengthen wrists. Also good for repetitive strain.
Clench fists, then release. One at a time or both together. Obviously not when driving!
With your arms crossed over your chest and feet on the floor, engage the core muscles and lengthen the spine.
(i) Take a mini back-bend focusing on the area of the mid-back (where the ribs attach);
(ii) bend to the left, then to the right.
To loosen tightness and tension around the shoulders.
(i) Roll the shoulders forwards and backwards;
(ii) shrug and release
You don’t need to get down on the floor to work your abs! Sit upright on your chair, with your weight evenly spread over both feet.Without letting your pelvis tilt or your back slump, lift your right foot off the floor, bringing the thigh towards the torso and keeping tummy muscles engaged. Pause, then lower and repeat with the left leg. Alternate. Try 10 reps.
Your neck flexibility is likely to be poorer on one side than on the other.Take your left ear over to your left shoulder to stretch the muscles on the right side of your neck. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the right, aiming for two to three repetitions each side.
Then, with chin tucked in, slowly turn your head to the right and left, five times to each side.
At the Plan Insurance office, we have also been trying out some of these exercises. We realise sitting in an office is different to our professional drivers sitting in their vehicles. But our specialist teams have found these tips very helpful!
We hope this blog has proved of use for you too! As specialist commercial motor insurance brokers, we always look for ways to provide relevant information to professional drivers.
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