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Driving and Back Pain

Why Driving Causes Back Pain

The mere act of sitting in a car seat can put strain on the back. This is because the seats do not usually allow for the lumbar curve in the spine. In fact, sitting upright in a car makes this curve non-existent, and it can put strain on the muscles and ligaments of the lower back. In addition, it can cause pressure on the discs of the lumbar region and lead to a herniation. Although many cars have decent suspension and shock absorbers, the spine is still jolted and vibrated with the passage of the car over the road.

The seat itself doesn’t help matters. Many cars have a low roof, and this means the seat is often sunk down into the car and tipped back to accommodate head room. Unfortunately, this position puts strain on the hamstrings which pulls the pelvis out of alignment. The awkward position causes strain in the lower back, hips, and legs. With the seat tipped back, the neck has to crane at least 20 degrees out of alignment to see ahead. This can cause pain in the neck, head, and upper back.
Ergonomics for Your Car

To help minimize these problems, it helps to adjust the seat. You should aim adjust your seat so that it provides as much support to the backs of the legs as possible. This will keep them from pulling the pelvis out of alignment. Sit with the seat a moderate distance from the pedals. If you sit too close, you may not be able to make adjustments as necessary. If you sit too far away, though, you will put strain on your lower back and neck as you strain to reach for the pedals. Aim for a comfortable distance that allows for a slight bend to the knee.

It is also important to adjust your steering wheel height. Many cars come with adjustable wheels and having it in the right position can take strain off your spine. Put your hands at 10 and 2 and adjust the wheel until there is a bend to your arms. Reaching out for a wheel that is too far away can strain your neck.

Lumbar support is the most important part of making your car back friendly. Some newer cars have built in lumbar support, but if yours does not, you can easily get a lumbar pillow for longer car rides. The pillow should gently press against the lower back at about waist height. You don’t want to have too much curvature to the lumbar region as this can cause strain, but not having any at all is just as bad. Find the pillow or setting that is gentle and comfortable for maximum benefit.

Preventing Pain Before It Starts

You can do a few things to prevent pain before it starts to be a problem. For instance, buy an automatic transmission vehicle over a manual because the constant use of the clutch can strain the lower back. Find a car that has built in and adjustable lumbar support for the maximum benefit to your back. Many newer cars have a great deal of options, and if you have a back problem, lumbar support seats may be worth it.

Of course, certain behaviors can also help with the pain. If long trips tend to make your back hurt, take the time to break the trip into smaller chunks. Drive for an hour and then get out and walk. Perhaps have another person drive for a while so that your back can rest. When you go on extended driving trips, you may be tempted to stretch and bend. This may cause problems with your muscles, ligaments, and discs because these structures are more tired and prone to injury after a long drive. Simple walking or sitting in a supportive chair for a while should help.

If you suffer from back or neck pain it’s always important to have your spine checked by a chiropractor.

Baby Walkers and Car Seats


Mums and dads are being urged not to allow their toddlers to use a baby walker and not to leave their babies in car baby seats when outside of the car.

The advice comes from the United Chiropractic Association (UCA), which says that baby walkers are bad for toddlers, and the habit of carrying a baby around in a car seat is harmful to both child and parent.

The UCA, which has around 600 members across the UK, warns that prolonged periods on their back risks the development of plagiocephaly, or flattening of bones in the infant’s skull. Research has linked plagiocephaly with a risk of not reaching full co-ordination and learning potential later on. The UCA says that a more upright position in a good quality baby sling is a much better carrying option.

When it comes to a baby’s first steps, rather than using a potentially damaging baby walker, the UCA is advising parents to allow their babies as much supervised ‘tummy time’ as possible to enable good spinal development.

The UCA says that keeping your baby in a car seat for long periods means their spine remains in a C-shape, preventing the natural curves of the neck and lower back from forming. And there are other risks too.

Executive member of the UCA, Estelle Zauner-Maughan, said: “There’s evidence that babies left in car seats for a long period of time may have difficulty breathing because of the posture it puts them in. So while it’s a very safe way for the baby to travel, babies should not be left in them for extended periods of time while not in the car.

“Research suggests that lying on their backs for long periods can increase the risk of plagiocephaly as a result of the prolonged pressure on the back of the head. This is very serious because there is a link between babies with flat skull and a risk of failing to reach their full co-ordination and learning potential.”

Estelle added: “Carrying your baby in a seat is also bad for YOU. Most people lean forward and twist when they get the seats in and out of the car. The spine is strong and it’s stable but not both at once. You’re putting a load on the spine and you’re twisting, which makes it unstable. It’s also quite a weight to be carrying about so you’re putting your core at risk.”

This is backed by research, which shows that carrying your baby in a sling saves 16% of your energy.

A good quality sling or wrap is much better for your baby too, according to Estelle – but make sure that the sling is of sufficient quality and that the baby is carried properly: “Some slings aren’t designed very well and the weight is distributed through the baby’s hips which is bad. But if you get a sling that puts their hips in a correct position, like you have a little koala hanging on to you, then the weight is distributed properly which helps to encourage proper musculoskeletal development.


“The muscles that attach into the back of the head have a lot to do with co-ordination and balance and learning, so if they’re upright they are firing those muscles appropriately. They’re getting stimulus into their balance system by you moving.”

The UCA points out that infants who are carried for three hours or more each day in their first three months of life cry 43% less often than those carried less frequently.

Supervised tummy time and crawling should also be encouraged. These activities are excellent for developing the spine properly as they allow the baby to lift the head off the ground and develop the arch of the neck.

“I advise that parents don’t use baby walkers for their children,” said Estelle. “It encourages babies to scoot around on their toes, which contributes to poor posture in later life and it encourages them to use muscles in a way that their nervous system isn’t yet ready for.

“They need to go through those stages of tummy time, rolling and crawling; doing this is what makes the nervous system develop in the right order. Plus baby walkers are potentially dangerous.”
Getting into good habits right from the start prevents the need for later correction and Estelle, who has a practice in Tynemouth, says a child is never too young for chiropractic: “I’ve adjusted babies as soon as they were born. The sooner that people are adjusted the better their potential. The techniques used with babies and children are adapted to their nervous system development and their physical development and with experienced paediatric chiropractors are safe and extremely effective.

“Chiropractors are highly trained to recognise when someone shouldn’t be adjusted and will refer them back to their medical practitioners and paediatricians as appropriate.”

Research references:
Timothy Littlefield, et al., Car Seats, Infant Carriers, and Swings: Their Role in deformational Plagiocephaly Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics 15 (July 2003): 102-106.
Wall-Scheffler C, Geiger K, Steudel-Numbers K. Infant carrying: The increased locomotory costs in early development. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 2007; 133: 841-846. Doi: 10,1002/ajpa.20603
Hunziker UA, Barr RZ. Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying: A randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 1986;77(5): 641-648

Vertigo (dizziness) and Chiropractic


Vertigo (dizziness) refers to the sensation of rotatory movement, either of the individual or the environment, and having difficulty to orientate the body in relation to surrounding subjects.

It can have many causes and in most cases it is a treatable condition. The treatment used obviously depends on the cause.

Dizziness is a common condition seen in the Chiropractic office. Individuals with cervicogenic (coming from the neck) dizziness will usually present with neck pain and may also experience headaches. Neck pain may only occur with palpation (when touching certain areas of the neck); therefore, many people may not realize that their neck is a problem. Cervicogenic dizziness may occur in the absence of an injury or may occur months to years after a head or neck injury.

Approximately 20-50% of people who have sustained a whiplash injury will experience symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, or decreased balance. These symptoms can be coming from the vestibular system, central nervous system, or neck. Dizziness may also occur as a result of arthritic changes, herniated disc, instability of the cervical vertebrae, muscle spasm, or postural adaptations such as scoliosis. Cervicogenic dizziness may occur gradually with continual worsening of symptoms or the onset may be rapid.

Faulty mechanics of the neck due to injury, muscle tightness, or poor posture may cause a sensation of dizziness. This is due to the connection between the nerve receptors in the upper neck and the vestibular system (inner ear and balance). The nerve receptors in the neck supply information about your head position and help with balance. This balance information works together with information from your eyes and inner ears to tell you what position your body is in with relationship to gravity and the ground. This gives you a sense of balance.


If the neck receptors are not providing the correct information and do not agree with the signals coming from the eyes and inner ears, the brain may get confused. This can result in the symptoms associated with cervicogenic dizziness. This connection between your neck, eyes, and inner ear also helps to improve your hand eye coordination, postural control, and balance. Therefore, damage or altered mechanics of the neck receptors may result in a sense of dizziness or disequilibrium and may decrease your coordination.

Chiropractic is a very effective treatment for cervicogenic vertigo as it is able to address joint dysfunction in the neck which is a major cause of the condition. The joints of the neck provide the brain with major input as far as head and body positioning. Joints that are fixed or immobile give the brain bad input and may cause vertigo. Chiropractic adjustments normalize the function and position of the joints and allow the joints to send the brain correct positioning information.

If you or someone you know suffers from vertigo or dizziness, call our clinic today!


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