Avoid the Pain of Driving

It may seem harmless enough, just sitting in or driving a moving vehicle.
However anyone who spends a lot of time sitting in a vehicle without changing
position or getting out to stretch every hour or two may experience aches,
pains and stiffness. This is especially true for people whose work involves
driving for long periods of time on a regular basis.

Common injuries and health effects associated with prolonged driving:

  • Cramps or spasms in the feet, legs or lower back

  • Pain or discomfort at pressure points on the back, legs and buttocks

  • Poor circulation in the legs and feet

  • Increased chance of low back injury from lifting immediately after driving

  • Increased risk for degeneration of spinal discs and disc damage (herniation)

Causes of injuries or discomfort

The root causes of most injuries from driving can be attributed to sitting for
long periods of time and whole-body vibration.

The sitting position flattens out the small of your back, increasing the
pressure on the discs in your spine. When you are sitting, your discs may not
be able to handle the vibrations from your vehicle. Also, the ligaments in your
back that help to hold your spine together as you move can stretch and slacken
when you sit for a long time. And they can stay that way for a while, even
after you stand. These stresses on your discs and ligaments can increase your
risk for back injury.

Whole-body vibration triggers bursts of back muscle activity. This unconscious
activity causes neck and back muscles to get tired more quickly, and reduces
the support these muscles can give to the spine. Even if the muscles are not
working very hard, without rest they will become fatigued which increases the
risk of back injury. Exposure to whole body vibration for a long time and the
increased disc pressure from sitting can injure your back.

Injuries or discomfort are also caused by:

  • Poor posture - from personal habit, or from an improperly adjusted or fitted

  • Stress or tension

  • Holding the gas pedal down for a long time

  • The continuous upper back and neck muscle work that is required to hold the
    head in position, especially if there is vibration

  • Low frequency whole-body vibration from the moving vehicle or more severe up-
    and down-vibrations experienced when driving on uneven or bumpy road surfaces.

Workers at risk

People who drive for a living or spend long periods of time sitting in a
vehicle are at increased risk for injury. Occupations include truck drivers,
ambulance drivers, taxi and bus drivers, delivery people, heavy equipment
operators, farmers, forklift operators and anyone who drives for long periods
of time on a regular basis.

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety