Ergonomics: Your Car
Today, with 180-million drivers in the United States, our reliance on the automobile is unprecedented. The increased time we spend in our cars has led to an increasein the physical damage we are subjecting our bodies to. When we drive, all ofthe fundamentals of ergonomics come into play: posture, force and repetition. Just the act of placing our hands on the steering wheel puts stress on the shouldersand upper back. In addition, the two most significant contributors of neck painwhile driving are insufficient headroom and inadequate seat positioning. The latter is in part due to car manufacturers recent concern with people's comfort in cars. It is the postural design of the common car seat that has greatly contributed to the overall tension and fatigue of today's commuters. So,what can you do to improve your driving experience? In addition to purchasing ergonomic products made for cars, we have gathered some ideas that will helpmake your car more ergo friendly.
For your back
- Choose a vehicle that sits high above the curb-an SUV instead of a sports car- if you already have a history of lower back problems. This will minimize pain as you get in and out of the car.
- Enter the car first by sitting down and then swinging your legs under the wheel. To leave your vehicle, slide the car seat back before swinging your legs out and planting your feet on the ground.
- Look for cars with automatic transmissions and power steering. These features lessen any twisting of the spine and strain to the lower back, by eliminating the action of having to shift gears.
- Use a lumbar support cushion to relieve pressure on the lower lumbar discs and back muscles caused by the angle of the seat to seat back being 90 degrees or less.
- Add foam wedges to the seat to elevate your pelvis and compensate for any loss of rigidity or sagging of the seat caused by wear and tear.
For your neck and shoulders
- Avoid leaning forward when you sit in the driver's seat, which places the head in a forward position.
- Position the car seat so that your arms are not fully extended and your feet comfortably reach the foot pedals without having to stretch your legs.
- Make sure there is sufficient room between your head and the roof of the car, allowing you to maintain an erect seat position and for your head and neck to turn with ease.
The optimal car seat
- Choose a comfortable and supportive seat with adjustment controls that include tilt and height.
- Confirm that all adjustment mechanisms are easy to use and positioned so that poor posture is not encouraged.
- Make sure the seat material does not create discomfort and that all parts of the seat provide adequate support.