10 Ways to alleviate back pain when driving

By: Jim Stanners

Jim Stanners from RVE offers 10 tips to alleviate back pain when driving. Plus, a chance to win an awesome prize pack from RVE!

RVE enhanced Mitsubishi Triton

For many New Zealand drivers, particularly those who spend hours on the road or farm every day, the ‘good old road trip’ can turn into an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience, with niggling (or worse) backache and pain.

Sitting in a car seat while not moving is similar to sitting in a good-quality armchair. However, as soon as the vehicle starts to move, everything changes. Accelerations, de-acceleration, and sideways forces come into play, along with up and down motions and vibrations that we don’t usually think about.

These forces are worse for the driver than the passengers, as they have more choice in shifting the body to brace and suit while moving. Drivers are subject to a range of combined other factors such as using their feet on the pedals. When your feet are active, they can’t support the body in the same way as if sitting in a normal chair.

Sitting in the same position in a car for long periods of time can trigger back pain. Those of us who commute daily to work can fall prey to this, especially if we spend a lot of time in front of computers during the day as well.

If your job involves driving for a living, then you’re certainly more exposed to have upper, mid, or lower backaches at some stage. Frequent ‘Whole Body Vibration’ (WBV) has been shown to increase the risk of sciatica and lower back pain by almost double in a study in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.

10 tips to help reduce back pain while in the car

1. Make yourself comfortable before you start your journey

2. Change the way you get in. Enter the vehicle by facing away from the car when sitting down and swivel into position. Don’t just roll in and twist your back. To exit, swivel first and then stand up facing away again. For assistance, use the door frame for support or install a strap with handle to the door frame.

3. Adjust your seat back and headrest with only a small recline. Most recommend a 100-degree angle. If you recline too far, this can cause tension in the neck and upper back as your head cannot rest comfortably against the headrest.

4. Move the seat forward or back to get close to the steering wheel without being uncomfortable. This helps to stop slouching and straining to reach pedals. If you slightly bend your knees higher than your hips, it can take the pressure off your lower back and hamstrings.

5. Check your mirrors. This includes side mirrors and centre rear-vision mirror. If you have to twist too far or slouch to see, these are set up wrong. Usually, you should only move your eyes to see out mirrors. This is more important in a family vehicle or shared driver vehicles, as the previous driver will have changed these.

6. Adjust your lumbar support to suit your body shape. With us all created differently and all seat shapes not created equal, rolling up a towel can assist here but usually is too big and causes further issues. If your seat does not have an adjustable inflatable lumbar support, these can be added as an aftermarket part. Your hips, back, and neck work like cogwheels, so by turning one part, the other parts will move as well.

7. Adjust steering wheel grip. New research shows hands should be at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions. The introduction of airbags in new vehicles has changed the earlier advice of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock for safety reasons. Most steering wheels have a height-adjustable feature that helps us to rest our elbows on the door armrest and centre console.

8. Heat your seat. Turn on your seat heaters as soon as possible. Heat can help to relax tight muscles and joints and reduces the pain signals sent to the brain. In turn, this brings more blood to the area, increasing oxygen and nutrient flow while reducing inflammation. If your vehicle does not have seat heaters, these can be installed at your convenience.

9. Take regular breaks. Sitting in one position for extended periods will cause stiffness and in some cases cramps. Stop as often as you can on longer trips to get out, briefly walk around, and stretch.

10. Participate in proactive healthcare. Years ago I had a small injury that caused back pain and popped up periodically over the last few years. More recently, this has been kept under control by regular visits to a chiropractor. Regular visits to a trained professional support the body’s ability to cope with stresses we place on it in today’s fast-paced world and helps keep the immune and nervous systems in better shape. Regular exercise also helps with overall fitness and improve muscle strength.

Drive in comfort

Whether you’re a farmer, contractor, or just spend a lot of time behind the wheel, the value of driver comfort cannot be overestimated.

RVE is a family-owned bu​​siness based in Auckland, which specialises in vehicle enhancement, for both the interior and exterior of utes, vehicles, and trucks. Whether you want to ‘pimp your ride’ with customised and beautifully crafted leather seats or vamp up the exterior look with a sleek new grill, flares, or sports bar, the impressive range offers almost endless scope for vehicle customisation.

There’s also a versatile range of ute tray lids, including the RVE electric shutter lid.

Three position heater switch

Just as important as the aesthetics, however, are performance, safety, and comfort. And this is where the lumbar support package comes in, with a two-way pump-up lumbar bag (which can be added aftermarket) installed to support the lower back for driver comfort and to help alleviate fatigue while driving.

Inflatable lumbar adjustment

The lumbar support invisibly mounts between the seat cover and the foam unit, and the experienced team at RVE can install and provide this, along with the added luxury of seat heaters. 

Cosy, warm leather seats

These luxurious seat heaters are the perfect antidote to chilly early mornings on the farm, with models available for all vehicles. As well as the obvious comfort aspect, the heated seats are also great for those who suffer from backache when driving. They can be fitted to any make or model of vehicle without changing the shape of the seat, and heater control switches can be mounted on the dashboard, centre console, or to the side trim of the seat.

For more details, visit rve.co.nz.


Thanks to RVE, we have an awesome prize package, valued at more than $2500, up for grabs.

Enter to win seat heaters and internal inflatable lumbar supports fitted to both front seats as a deluxe combo.

Make driving your ute the best experience it can be (vehicles need to be delivered to the Auckland factory for personal installation to be carried out).

Enter at farmtrader.co.nz/competitions for your chance to win this brilliant prize.

Entries close 30 November 2020.

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