3 tips to help you prevent sciatica flare-ups while driving

Prevent Sciatica While Driving

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated. Your sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and then travels down each leg. If you experience sciatica, you’re not alone: Up to 40% of people may experience sciatica in their lives. Sitting in a car for an extended period of time can cause sciatica to flare up; this leads many people to wonder how to prevent sciatica while driving. 

Keep reading for three tips to help prevent sciatica while driving. In addition to these, seeing a physical therapist can be a great way to prevent sciatic nerve pain while driving so you can enjoy getting in the car again. 

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is not actually a condition itself. It is a symptom that is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the human body’s longest nerve. People with this condition usually feel pain that radiates where the sciatic nerve travels in the body. The nerve starts at each side of the hips and travels down through the legs all the way to the feet. When someone has sciatica, it usually only affects one side of the buttocks and legs. 

What can cause it?

Sciatica can be caused by a number of different issues, most of which result in numbness, pain and inflammation. Most of the causes of sciatica place pressure on the nerve or pinch it. Some of these may include:

  • Herniated disc.
  • Bone spur.
  • Tumor.
  • Diabetes.

Why does driving irritate sciatica?

Driving puts the body in a rigid posture that can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica. When you sit in the seat of your car, your spinal column becomes curved and compressed. This can have an effect on the vertebrae in your spine and cause significant pain or discomfort. 

Sitting in the car with poor posture and with your arms outstretched to the steering wheel can put your body in a curved position, which can exacerbate sciatica. Not only does driving place pressure on your spinal column, making sciatica worse, but sitting for prolonged periods of time can have similar effects. During long drives, the pain can be extremely uncomfortable and put a damper on your travels. 

What can you do to alleviate sciatica when driving?

Here are three tips that can help prevent sciatica flare-ups while driving:

  • Stretch Try stretching before and after a car ride to decompress the spine. If you have a long car drive, take breaks to get out and stretch. One easy stretch to perform is leaning forward to touch your toes. It’s OK if you can’t reach all the way down! Just by bending forward, you open up the space between your vertebrae, which can help decompress the spine and reduce irritation of the sciatic nerve. 
  • Get some lumbar support Some cars come with lumbar support adjustments built into the seat. Try adjusting these settings until you are comfortable but not totally sunken into your seat. You want your spine to be somewhat straight while driving so that you don’t put any additional stress on it that can contribute to sciatica. 
  • Improve your driving posture In addition to lumbar support, you also want to be mindful of your driving posture. Don’t lean or hunch forward while driving. Also, you should be upright and your knees should also be parallel to your bottom. This ensures the most neutral driving position to help reduce sciatic nerve pain. Make sure you are close to the steering wheel, and not reaching out hunched over, to prevent sciatica while driving.

Need to seek additional treatment to prevent sciatica while driving? Physical therapy can help you get back on the road with confidence 

Nobody wants to dread getting into their car for a drive. That’s where we come in. Our team at Franklin Rehabilitation has years of experience in treating painful back problems like sciatica. We are prepared to build you a personalized treatment plan that can help prevent sciatica while driving. 

Contact our team today for more information about sciatica relief or to schedule an initial appointment.