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Cruising for a bruising

Claire Henson-Bowen and Tim Blakey

UK drivers are suffering health issues from poor driving posture; 75 percent of UK motorists are suffering from back pain caused by driving; 3 in 10 admit to sitting incorrectly at the wheel 58 percent of drivers don’t know how they should sit in the car. Full findings, graphics and methodology can be found.

Contributors – Claire Henson-Bowen, Principal Physiotherapist – Bespoke Wellbeing (London), and Tim Blakey, Physiotherapist, certified Precision Nutrition coach and creator – Pr1mebody

Brits are driving themselves into health issues when behind at the wheel, new research has revealed. Three quarters of drivers in the UK are complaining that back pain is being brought on from driving, which is leading to spinal injuries, joint pain and posture issues for many motorists up and down the country. When asked, only 30 percent of drivers are sat in the right position in the car, and just 42 percent could identify the right position that they should be sitting at. These issues are affecting drivers of all age groups and genders. However, this pain was more apparent with motorists aged 25-34 (83 percent) and women appeared to be more affected than men (with 79 percent admitting to problems, compared to 71 percent of males).

The research, by auto retailer Motorpoint, also revealed the cities in the UK where driver discomfort is highest. It was found that drivers from Bristol suffer the most pain when driving (91 percent), followed by Belfast (82 percent), Cardiff (79 percent), London (78 percent), with Birmingham rounding off the top 5 list (77 percent). To discover more about the issues poor driving positions cause, Motorpoint enlisted the help of Claire Henson-Bowen, Principal Physiotherapist at Bespoke Wellbeing (London), and Tim Blakey, Physiotherapist, certified Precision Nutrition coach and creator of Pr1mebody online coaching programme.

Clare explained that: “Poor driving positions, especially if repetitive or for long journeys, can lead to spinal pain in the neck and lower back. This can create areas of joint stiffness, muscle tightness and altered posture.

“We recommend the following top tips to help keep you become pain free whilst behind the wheel. Keep the seat as close to the wheel as is comfortable so you can easily reach the wheel with your elbows relaxed. Always adjust the back rest recline so it supports your spine without leaning too far back. Ensure all mirrors are adjusted before you start your journey to avoid excessive twisting. Build in rest stops for long journeys to get out and stretch your legs (every 1-2 hours).

“Outside of the car, we of course recommend you keep a fit and active lifestyle which should include exercises to strengthen your back muscles and reduces tension with stretches.”

Tim commented: “Awareness is key. Do you slump to one side with your elbow on the centre console/ window/door? Is your seat cushion bulged at the sides? If so, try to balance these out. The key isn’t to try and sit with perfect posture 24/7. That’s unsustainable and actually impossible.

“The most important thing we can do is move more. This may mean taking frequent opportunities to get out of the car and walk/ stretch.”

Alison Weatherley, Head of Marketing at Motorpoint, said: “For many of us, driving is an essential part of our everyday lives, whether it’s for getting to work, going shopping, or just going out and about, it is likely that we can be spending numerous hours each week behind the wheel.

“When we are driving, it’s essential to look after yourself and make yourself comfortable for long journeys. Not only will this ease the stresses that you’re putting your body through, but it will also help allow you to be as sharp and focused at the wheel as possible.”