Driving, for many, is an essential part of daily life, whether it’s the daily commute to work, long road trips, or simply running errands around town. However, prolonged sitting in the driver’s seat can lead to discomfort or even chronic hip pain for some individuals. But why does this happen? And more importantly, how can you prevent it? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind hip pain from driving and offer some practical tips and strategies to help you stay pain-free on the road.
- 1 Why Does My Hip Hurt From Driving?
- 2 How Can I Fix Hip Pain From Driving?
- 3 How Do You Adjust A Car Seat To Avoid Hip Pain?
- 4 Conclusion
Why Does My Hip Hurt From Driving?
Hip pain from driving can arise from various factors. Here are some primary reasons for hip pain after driving:
- Prolonged Sitting
Spending extended periods in a seated position can lead to stiffness and discomfort. This is because long-duration sitting can compress the structures in and around the hip.
- Incorrect Seat Position
A seat adjusted too far back can cause you to stretch your legs to reach the pedals, putting strain on the hips. Conversely, a seat too close can cause your knees to be higher than your hips. Eventually, leading to discomfort.
- Lack of Movement
The hip joint, like any other joint, needs movement to stay lubricated and flexible. When you’re driving, especially for long durations, there’s limited opportunity to move and adjust your position.
- Tight Hip Flexors
The hip flexor muscles, located at the front of your hip, can become tight from prolonged sitting. This tightness can lead to discomfort. Especially when transitioning from a seated to a standing position.
- Underlying Medical Conditions
Conditions like arthritis, bursitis, or sciatica can be exacerbated by prolonged sitting, such as during driving. If you’re prone to these conditions, driving might worsen the symptoms.
Believe it or not, the shoes you wear can impact your hip health. High heels or shoes with inadequate support can alter the alignment of your feet, legs, and hips, leading to discomfort.
- Vibration and Bumps
Continuous exposure to the vibration from the car and the road, especially on uneven terrains, can contribute to muscle fatigue and discomfort over time.
- Driving Style
Constant use of the clutch in manual vehicles or frequent stops and starts can cause repetitive strain. And, leading to hip discomfort.
If you’re experiencing hip pain after driving, it’s essential to assess your driving habits, the ergonomics of your car, and your physical health. If the pain persists, consider consulting a medical professional to rule out any underlying conditions or issues.
How Can I Fix Hip Pain From Driving?
Addressing hip pain from driving involves a combination of adjusting your in-car ergonomics, incorporating specific exercises and stretches, and making lifestyle changes. Here are some suggestions to help alleviate and prevent hip discomfort:
Use Lumbar Support
Lumbar support is essential to maintain the natural curve of the lower back, particularly when you’re sitting for prolonged periods, like driving.
- Why It’s Important: The lumbar region of your spine has a natural inward curve. When this curve is flattened, it can strain the lower back and the structures around the hips, causing discomfort.
- How to Use: Position your lumbar support (a cushion or rolled-up towel can work) in the curve of your lower back. Ensure it’s not too thick, causing an exaggerated curve, nor too thin, failing to provide adequate support.
- Additional Tip: When shopping for a car, consider those with built-in adjustable lumbar support to customize the fit for your back.
Taking breaks during long drives isn’t just good for concentration and fatigue, it’s also essential for your physical well-being.
- Why It’s Important: Prolonged sitting can reduce blood circulation, lead to muscle fatigue, and increase joint stiffness. Taking breaks can counteract these effects.
- How to Implement: Aim for a short break every 1-2 hours when on long drives. Use this time to stretch your legs, walk around, and perform some light hip stretches.
- Additional Tip: Plan your route in advance, marking rest stops or scenic points to make your breaks more enjoyable.
Hip Flexor Stretches
The hip flexors are a group of muscles at the front of your hip that become tight and shortened when you sit for extended periods.
- Why It’s Important: Tight hip flexors can pull on the lumbar spine, leading to back pain. And also cause direct discomfort in the hip region.
- How to Stretch: One effective stretch is the standing or kneeling lunge. For a standing lunge, step one foot forward and bend both knees, ensuring the forward knee stays above the ankle. Push your hips forward gently until you feel a stretch in the front of the opposite hip.
- Additional Tip: Consistency is key. Try to incorporate hip flexor stretches into your daily routine, not just when you feel pain.
Strengthen Your Core
The core includes not just the abs but also the muscles of the lower back, sides, pelvis, and glutes.
- Why It’s Important: A strong core stabilizes the spine, reduces the load on your hips, and maintains proper posture, especially vital during activities like driving.
- How to Strengthen: Basic exercises like planks, side planks, and bridges are effective. For a basic plank, lie face down, then lift your body using your forearms and toes, keeping your body straight from head to heels. Hold as long as you can maintain good form.
- Additional Tip: When starting core exercises, it’s essential to ensure proper form to prevent injury. Consider consulting a fitness professional or physical therapist if you’re new to these exercises.
Maintain Good Posture
Posture plays a crucial role in distributing weight and strain evenly throughout the body.
- Why It’s Important: Slouching or leaning to one side can cause uneven distribution of weight, leading to overstraining certain muscles or joints, including the hips.
- How to Implement: Sit back in your seat with your back straight. Your shoulders should be relaxed but not slouched. Your head should be in a neutral position, not leaning forward.
- Additional Tip: Regularly check your posture while driving, especially during long trips. Over time, even those conscious of their posture can inadvertently start to slouch or lean, especially as fatigue sets in.
The shoes you wear can significantly influence your driving comfort and overall posture.
- Why It’s Important: Shoes with poor arch support or high heels can modify the natural alignment of your feet, legs, and hips. This misalignment can put additional strain on your hips when you’re driving.
- How to Implement: Opt for shoes that have proper arch support and a relatively flat heel when driving. This will allow for a more natural foot position, enabling better control over the pedals and reducing the strain on the hips.
- Additional Tip: If you must wear heels or less comfortable shoes for an event or work, consider keeping a pair of driving shoes in your car to switch into when you’re on the road.
Alternate Your Foot
Switching the foot you use to control the pedals can give your dominant foot a break, reducing strain.
- Why It’s Important: Constantly using one foot (usually the right) can lead to an imbalance in muscle use and strain. Especially if driving for long periods.
- How to Implement: When safe to do so, especially on long stretches of straight roads with little need for pedal adjustments, you can use your left foot briefly to control the accelerator. However, be cautious with this approach. As it can feel unfamiliar and may affect your reaction time.
- Additional Tip: It’s crucial to prioritize safety. If alternating feet feel awkward or cause any driving issues. Then, it’s best to stick with the traditional one-foot method and focus on other ways to alleviate discomfort.
Consider Seat Cushions
Seat cushions can provide additional support and height, optimizing your sitting angle and reducing pressure points.
- Why It’s Important: Over time, even well-padded car seats can lose their cushioning, leading to increased pressure on your hips. An external cushion can provide that extra padding and support.
- How to Implement: Choose a cushion that is ergonomically designed for car seats. It should elevate your hips slightly, ensuring they are level with or slightly higher than your knees. The cushion should also distribute your weight evenly.
- Additional Tip: Memory foam cushions or those made of gel can offer a good balance of comfort and support, conforming to your body shape while providing adequate firmness.
Engaging in physical therapy can address specific musculoskeletal issues causing or exacerbating your hip pain.
- Why It’s Important: Physical therapists can provide targeted exercises, stretches, and techniques tailored to your unique condition, offering relief and prevention strategies.
- How to Implement: If hip pain persists despite making adjustments to your driving habits and environment, consider consulting a physical therapist. They can assess your posture, muscle strength, and flexibility, creating a treatment plan specific to your needs.
- Additional Tip: Regularly practicing the exercises and stretches recommended by your therapist can offer long-term benefits, improving your overall musculoskeletal health and reducing the likelihood of recurring hip pain.
How Do You Adjust A Car Seat To Avoid Hip Pain?
Adjusting your car seat correctly is essential to avoid hip pain and promote overall musculoskeletal health during drives. Here are the steps and considerations to ensure that your seat is adjusted optimally:
- Seat Height: Elevate your seat such that your hips are either level with or slightly higher than your knees.
Ensure you have a clear view of the road and controls without having to excessively bend or lift your neck.
- Seat Distance: Move the seat forward or backward. So that you can comfortably reach the pedals. Your knees should be slightly bent when pressing the pedals. Ensure that your back is pressed against the seat backrest and there’s a slight bend in your elbows while holding the steering wheel.
- Backrest Recline: The angle between your torso and thighs should be between 100 to 110 degrees. This angle reduces the stress on your lumbar spine and hips. Make sure you can still easily reach the steering wheel without leaning forward or reaching out.
- Steering Wheel: Adjust the steering wheel’s height and distance to ensure you can hold it comfortably with a slight bend in your elbows. Your hands should be positioned roughly at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions, or slightly below.
- Headrest: Your headrest should be aligned with the middle of your head. It should not push your head forward but support the natural curve of your neck.
- Mirrors: Adjust the side and rear-view mirrors to ensure you can see without having to move or twist in your seat excessively. This step, while not directly linked to hip pain, can avoid you from making repetitive or straining movements.
Remember, the primary aim is to support a posture that distributes weight evenly. And promotes a comfortable driving experience.
In the modern age, where commuting and traveling by car is a staple for many, ensuring a pain-free driving experience is paramount. By understanding the root causes of hip discomfort during driving and implementing thoughtful seat adjustments and practices, one can significantly reduce and even prevent associated pain.
Whether you’re driving around the corner or across the country, prioritizing your posture and seat ergonomics can make every journey a smoother ride. If you’re experiencing Hip pain, physical therapy for hip pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.