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Proper Ergonomics for Car Travel

car ergonomics

By: Brittany Browder, ATC, MA, CEIS

Warmer weather is here and some of you might be getting ready for fun spring break trip or planning a summer vacation. If you’re planning on driving to your destination, you should take into consideration proper ergonomic postures. Long drives can mean many hours of both drivers and passengers sitting in awkward, static postures for long periods of time. Just as you prepare for your trip by making packing lists and booking hotels, you should also ergonomically prepare your car for the long trip. Avoiding pain and discomfort will help you not enjoy your trip pain-free but it can even help you improve daily ergonomic habits when you return home safely after your trip.

Every car has different features and instruments to make traveling by car more comfortable. So before you hit the road, take a few extra minutes to ensure safe and proper traveling postures. Check out these tips:

  • Adjust your seat height so that all instruments are eye level
  • Seat height should be adjusted so your hips are higher than your knees  
  • Helpful Hint: Use a cushion or a pillow to help place you in the proper position
  • Ensure your feet can appropriately press the accelerator and break without your back leaving the seat
  • Slightly recline the seat to approximately 100 degrees
  • Adjust the steering wheel to avoid over reaching;
    • Imagine the steering wheel is a clock and place hands at 10 and 2, or 9 and 3 
    • Wheel distance should be 10 inches from the the drivers breastbone

Use this checklist to make sure your car is ergonomically correct:

  1. Posture is upright in your seat
  2. Knees are lower than your hips
  3. Feet can reach the accelerator and break pedal without overstretching your legs
  4. Make sure you are able to touch the entire pedal with your whole foot, not just your toes
  5. You should be able to see three inches or more over the steering wheel
  6. Adjust your mirrors so you avoid having to repetitively turn your neck and torso
  7. Make sure you can fit two or three fingers behind the back of your knee and the front of your seat
  8. You should be able to keep your shoulders relaxed ad your arms close to your body when driving or sitting

In addition to having proper posture when you travel, another way to avoid pain or injuries is to make smart decisions with your luggage and travel items. Look for lighter pieces of luggage with handles and wheels. While it can be tough to pack light depending on your destination, try. Use smart packing techniques so you’re not have to carry heavy loads.

How to Properly Lift Luggage:

  • Bend at the knees so you are lifting with your legs and not your back.
  • Once you lift the bag, hold it close to your body to avoid unnecessary strain on your back.
  • Do not twist or turn while holding the luggage.
  • Backpacks should be worn with both straps and should be no heavier than 10-15% of your body weight; do not let the backpack hang 2 inches or more below your waist line.
  • If you have to use a duffel or shoulder bag, switch the side you’re holding it on frequently

If you have any questions about ergonomics or think you might have an injury, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center at 703-450-4300. Let our skilled clinicians help you get pain-free so you can enjoy your upcoming trips or everyday activities without pain.