This article is driven by the question on this article on osteoarthritis pain and the weather.
(Oh dear I seem to be full of bad puns today-sorry!)
Effectively the person asked if she should move closer to work to avoid the long commute even though she is happy living where she does.
Rather than presume to advise her on such a huge lifestyle change I have decided to write this article on how to reduce your osteoarthritis pain when driving. In it I will give you some tips on how to reduce the pain and stiffness on arrival as well as how to set up your car seat correctly.
Why Does Driving Set Off Your Osteoarthritis Pain?
It is not really the act of driving that sets off off your osteoarthritis pain but rather being sat still for long periods in what are usually badly designed seats.
The first thing is easy to sort. You need to make regular stops and stretch out your affected joints. My advice is that you stop at least every 30 minutes. That seems a lot but all you have to do is walk a couple of times round the car swinging your arms and you are away again. It really only takes a couple of minutes and makes a huge difference to how you will feel when you reach the other end.
So in this lady’s case she needs to find a stopping place half way to work where she can get out and move about.
Please note it is no different if you have osteoarthritis pain in your arms or hands. You need to get that blood flowing so walking around and stretching your hand/ fingers or whatever is affected is just as effective if the OA was in your hip.
Why are Car Seats So Uncomfortable?
The basic problem with most car seats is that they slope down at the back of the base. When we sit in something that slopes back our pelvis is rolled posteriorly which in turns causes our lumbar spine (lower back) to flatten. Car manufacturers then proudly put in lumbar supports which forces the curve in our low back to increase.
The upshot is a very confused spine and this goes on to affect the whole way we sit so also affects up into the neck and shoulders and down into the hips and knees.
I have never worked out why this is not pointed out to the car seat manufacturers!
How to Adjust your Car Seat to a Reduce Your Osteoarthritis Pain
1. There should be 120° between the back of your seat and the base. In other words it should tilt slightly backwards.
2. Your elbows should be bent when holding the steering wheel at the ten to two position. You should not feel like you are reaching forward. This Youtube video shows how to set your car seat for safety but also is the best way to reduce osteoarthritis pain.
3. If you have a seat which the tilt of the base is adjustable then set it as flat as you can.
If your seat base does not go flat then get a piece of firm foam cut in a wedge shape and fill it the base so it becomes flat.
4. The adjust the lumbar support so it fits into the small of your back without pushing you forward.
This is your position for all local use.
When you are going on a long journey (over 15 minutes or so) then every 10 minutes adjust your lumbar support one notch up or down and keep changing every 10 minutes. This alters your whole body position and so helps stop you setting while you sit. (You still need to get out every 30 minutes or so!).
Your Muscles Need to Be in Good Condition
Driving is actually hard work for a degenerated joint so you need to get the muscles around it in good condition. This means you need to do stretching and strengthening exercises on a regular basis.
Doing stretching exercises during your stops will also help a lot.
Click here to find out more on how exercises can help your osteoarthritis pain and get a program suitable for you and how much degeneration you have.