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Driving & Posture

Q: I landed my dream job a few weeks ago, and I've got a 45-mile commute. I didn't think I'd mind the distance, but my neck and shoulders are stiff and sore by the time I reach the office. Some days, the pain lasts for hours. I know the drive is doing it, despite the fact that I sit nice and tall. I can't give up my job. Can you help?

Dr. Donnica:
Is car pooling a possibility?!  You're right that the back pain stems from your commute; in fact, your perfect posture may be exacerbating the problem. Drivers often sit too close to the dashboard, which forces the body into a bolt-upright position that may exacerbate the problem. While the ideal solution is less driving (is there a move in your future?), the ideal angle is one that allows your upper back and shoulders to come in full contact with seat back, yet allows a gentle curve in the lower spine. To do, slide the seat back a bit so you can easily reach the pedals, but your knees are at a relaxed, 45-degree angle. Then, recline the back of the seat a small bit.  Don't set the angle too far back, since that can cause you to compensate by jutting your head and shoulders forward while you drive.  In the meantime, you can try treating the pain with over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil or Nuprin).  Of course, a gentle massage at the end of your day may help as well!

Created: 5/30/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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