Written for The News Journal
I just returned from a trip to Maine which has become an annual event during which I get to do some great kayaking, hiking and relaxing.
My wife and I truly love Maine, and we always say the long time in the vehicle driving is worth it. But, the reality is that after a total of nine and a half hours of actual drive time, more than a few parts of my body are “talking to me.”
I get so many questions from patients almost daily about how to be more comfortable when they are driving, even for short distances.
Certainly, a big part of this is how someone is actually positioned in the vehicle seat. The angle of the back rest, height of the seat and amount of lumbar support are all important factors in determining comfort level.
Of course, we are not all built to the same dimensions. Even though base model cars have decent adjustability with seating, a person over 6 feet tall will have different needs than the person who is 5 feet tall. To complicate matters even more, two people who are exactly six feet tall may have different leg lengths, arm lengths, etc.
So, it is difficult if not impossible to recommend a “one size fits all” guideline to make you perfectly comfortable in your vehicle seat. There are general principles I strive to have my patients achieve when adjusting the seat, but the bottom line is you have to change positions, and often.
Of course, this means stopping and taking breaks on long trips. Most of us just want to get to our destinations as quickly as possible, but this almost always backfires. The fatigue in the postural muscles that are working to support us while driving is insidious.
Our bodies often do not give us clear signals that certain areas are fatiguing. I tell patients that once you starting having pain, you are too late. We have to be more proactive to prevent the muscular fatigue that causes most of our discomfort with sustained sitting.
The other factor about which most of us are unaware is the contribution of vibration. No matter how smoothly your vehicle rides, there is vibration that automatically causes muscles to contract harder. I recommend stopping at least every two hours to give your muscles a break.