Could sitting in the car be causing you pain?

The Holidays are coming, which for many of us means traveling.

After sitting in the car for 3 hours (one way) while driving the the Seuss Museum over the weekend and then the thought of driving another 3.5 hours to visit family over Thanksgiving, thoughts of making my travel more comfortable and least stressful on my body came to mind.

Sitting in the car to go to the next town over or several states over can put your body into strange postures.

Car seats are built for safety, not so much for good posture.

What this means is you need to be mindful how you are sitting in the seat, which may include props or modifications.

By sitting in the car in an odd posture for 10 minutes several times a day, 30 minutes a week or several hours all add up to wear and tear on your body.

Good posture in the car becomes especially important during pregnancy and as a mom.

As a mom you are reestablishing your core and have to constantly adapt how you are moving and using your body to take care of your little one(s). Being intentional about your posture will help your body heal, reconnect, and move in a more efficient way. Thus in the long run nourish your body and avoid pain.

During pregnancy, good posture can be harder to find and manage, especially if the seat you're sitting in forces you in to an odd posture.

And since sitting in general during pregnancy can cause your joints to settle leading to aches and pain, it makes it even more important to pay attention to.

When sitting in the car, especially for longer than 10 minutes, your body tends to get tired of sitting in one position when it lacks the support from your core.

Here are some of my tips for sitting in the car.... to travel during the holidays or for every day driving.

Adjust Your Seat First

There are so many ways to adjust seats now, so take advantage of your options.

When you first get into the car play around with your seat position. Explore the different positions you can put your seat in.

  • Does your seat raise and lower?
  • Is there adjustable lumbar support?
  • Does the seat tilt?
  • Can you adjust the steering wheel (if you're driving)?
  • What is the distance you can safely and comfortably be from the steering wheel?

Know What Proper Sitting Posture Looks Like

Adjusting your seat will only be effective for you if you know how to adjust for good posture in sitting.

There are some basics to always follow and then some modifications to play around with.

Here are some basics:

  • Pelvic Neutral
    • You want to make sure your pelvis is not tipped in one direction. Car seats tend to force us into more of a posterior tip, making us sit on our tailbones.
    • You also want to make sure you are not twisting in one direction, by crossing your legs or shifting your weight to one side.
  • Spine Neutral
    • You want to make sure your spine is nicely stacked over the pelvis, not rounded or arched or twisted
    • Car seats lend more to rounding your back because of the concave nature of the seat back.
  • Knees in line with each other
    • This is especially true when you are driving
    • Make sure when you are sitting your knees line up with each other, rather than having one more forward
    • This is typically a twist in the pelvis
  • Neutral hips
    • Avoid sitting with legs crossed, significantly turned out or in, or squeezed together or wide apart

Here is a modification:

  • Hips and Knees should be around 90˚ flexion (or bent)
    • This is when you are a passenger. When you are driving your knees will not be at 90˚ to reach the petals while at a safe distance from the steering wheel.
    • This may not always be achievable in a car based on height of the seat. For example you may drive a sedan and be tall. The seat may only raise up so high to accommodate your long legs. Unlike a SUV that seat is already higher.
    • As your belly grows so does the angle your hips can be at for comfort.

How to Find Good Posture

Now to combine playing around with your seat options and knowing your posture guidelines.

When you first get into the car adjust your seat. Find the position that brings you the closest to the 90˚ at hip and knee, or even around 100˚ hip flexion (think more open between thighs and belly, like opening a book).

Once you've figured that out, adjust the distance between you and the steering wheel if you're driving. I've found that when I adjust the seat height I get too close to the steering wheel.

The rest is based on you.

After adjusting your seat to avoid the common rounded, slouched or closed off position, you have to help your body find the comfortable neutral.

Use your pelvic tilts to find pelvic neutral.

Grow your spine out of your pelvis in both directions, stacking your vertebra, ribs, shoulders and head over your pelvis.

Adjust your seat again, if your lumbar support is too much or little. I find that sometimes the lumbar support doesn't actually align with where you need the most support. Think just above the sacrum or belt line. You should feel your sacrum (widest part of pelvis) and your ribs are softly reaching into the seat.

Look at your legs. Are they neutral or twisted? Are you crossing your legs? Are you shifted to one side, so you can quickly look back at your kiddo(s)? I'm guilty with that last one.

As you settle into your neutral body position and find your good posture, now you can adjust your mirrors to match your needs.

Keeping it up on long rides....

Can be support challenging. Don't feel you need to stay still the entire time you are in the car.

By all means shift and move.

This will keep your muscles from becoming stiff, your joints from settling, and boost your overall awareness of your posture.

If you rode with me you'd see me doing pelvic tilts, pelvic circles, glutes squeezes, neck rolls, deep breathing with core coordination, leg shakes and more.

This keeps my body awake, but at the safe time relaxed and more comfortable, avoiding very common aches and pains in the low back, pelvis and hips....especially when you transition out of the car to standing.