I started driving for Uber on the weekends during my first year of Physical Therapy school. After putting in long, nonstop hours on the road, I began to notice an occurrence of neck and back pain the more I drove. Physical Therapists are the movement experts in physical rehabilitation and prevention (Prehab). This in mind, I incorporated what I have learned in physical therapy school to prevent the discomfort caused by Uber driving. To much success, here are a few tips & tricks I use to put the brakes on my pain before it starts:
1. Use the seat to your advantage: Use the whole seat and sit completely back in the chair to stabilize your pelvis and properly align your spine in order to take immediate pressure off of your lower back. Use lumbar support and seating wedges to maintain the natural curve of your back for maximum pain relief. Unlike sitting, standing evenly distributes forces through your spine. Therefore, when sitting, we should try to mimic the standing posture of a neutral pelvis and balanced spine as much as possible to create a pain free position. See advanced seating designs for more information.
Bad posture places uneven pressure on the shock absorbers of the spine called discs. When these disc undergo repeated stress they become flat and lopsided. This can lead to bulging discs, disc degeneration, and pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves leading to back pain, shooting pain in the arms and legs, loss of sensation, and many more problems that can stop you from driving. Most vehicles have built-in adjustable seating angles and lumbar support. If not, cut a pool noodle in half or use a rolled towel to substitute. For optimal support you can purchase lumbar supports and seating wedges on amazon.com.
2. Don’t get ahead of yourself: Be aware of your head position. Forward head posture alters the alignment of your head in relation to the rest of the body and puts massive amounts of stress on the neck. Think of your head as a bowling ball on a stick. The ball directly on top of the stick balances effortlessly, but tipping the ball forward requires more effort to pull the bowling ball upright. The same thing is happening to the muscles in the back of the neck during forward head posture. The fatigue and tension from chronic forward head posture can lead to pain and loss of range of motion when turning the head and neck as well as shoulder pain, tension headaches, and breathing problems.
The Fix – Neck pain can put you and your passengers at risk from failure to check all fields of vision while driving. Fixing your overall sitting posture as discussed in tip #1 will be the first step to achieve optimal cervical alignment. Chin tucks and neck extensor stretches shown below will help fix what we physical therapists call Upper crossed syndrome coined by Dr. Vladmir Janda. The Muscles in the front of the neck and mid back are over stretched and weak, and the muscles the back of the neck, shoulders, and chest are over active and tight. This problem results in an endless cycle of poor posture and pain that could keep you off the road and diminish your paycheck.
3. You Deserve a Break: In a podcast done by Barbell Shrugged ,Doctor of Physical Therapy Roop Sihota from San Fransisco Crossfit quotes an article from LUMO that is titled “The Best Posture is the Next Posture”. Tissue adapts to stress over time, therefore it is crucial for us as drivers to move to our next best posture in order to combat the hard set positions produced during hours of driving. Use it or lose it, Movement reduces muscle and joint pain by resetting and realigning posture, increasing blood flow throughout the body, and improving flexibility to tight muscles. However ,unlike your muscles, joints do not receive much blood flow on their own and require movement to eliminate waste and acquire nutrition in order to stay healthy. As ride sharing drivers we are sedentary for hours at a time making our muscles and joints stiff and painful. While you’re waiting for your next ride, stretch and walk a block to give your mind and body a well deserved break (See section A). Yes yes, I know, at times we cannot always leave our vehicle due to high demand, bad weather, or traffic, but we can still find our next best posture within our car with a few seated exercises and stretches (see section B).
A.) Standing Stretches: *Modify as Needed
B.) Seated Exercises & Stretches:
Use these tips and tricks to keep your earnings high and your pain low. If you have tried these tips and you are still in pain please contact a licensed Physical Therapist or your primary Physician. To learn more about me and for any questions regarding health and wellness, fitness, nutrition, and physical therapy, feel free to visit my contact page on my website. caseycolemanpt.wordpress.com
Thank You for Your Attention.
* To learn how Physical Therapy can serve you, see GetPT1st , Greg Todd , Renewal Rehab Paul Gough Physio Rooms, Functional Patterns , Aaron LeBauer , Kelly Starrett, The Movement Fix, Anatomy Trains, The Prehab Guys, Modern Manual Therapy, Dr. Ben Fung , Andrews University Doctor of Physical Therapy
Edited: Ffrancesca Famorcan
LUMO. (2013, October 30). Your Best Posture is Your Next Posture | Lumo. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://www.lumobodytech.com/blog/your-best-posture-is-your-next-posture/