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Just like sleeping on your mattress at night, Gilani Engineering understands that we spend so much time sitting in our cars and driving nowadays. Everyone knows the correct sitting posture, but driving posture often gets overlooked, especially in people who have had disability vehicle modifications.
More than often, if you are an individual living with a disability, you may have gadgets and vehicle modifications or other assistive technology in your vehicle altering the mechanics of the car and how comfortable and posture friendly it is.
At Gilani Engineering we are disability driving solution specialists and fortunately our vehicle modifications do not compromise on comfort and excellent posture. All of our vehicle modifications are occupational therapist approved and physiotherapy approved to be ergonomically built ensuring that your posture can be maintained and unwanted health problems in the future can be prevented.
Gilani Engineering are registered NDIS providers and can work with occupational therapists to find an ideal driving solution for you without compromising on maintaining your driving posture.
Prolonged periods of sitting can cause unwanted side effects such as:
The three main curves of a properly aligned spine include the lordosis curve of the neck "backwards C" curve, the Kyphosis curve of your thoracic spine (back of ribs) which is "C-shaped" and the lordosis curve of your lower back which should be "backwards C-shaped" much like your neck. Your driving posture changes when you sit in the car.
When combined, all these curves form an ‘S’ shape. Over time, poor posture can cause these natural curves to change shape, putting an excessive amount of pressure in the wrong position. Our spines are built to absorb shock, but bad posture can slowly deteriorate this natural ability, putting your body at risk for more serious injury in the future.
One of the most commonly known side effects of poor posture is unwanted strain on your upper and lower back. Slouching forward puts pressure between your shoulder blades and causes you to flatten your back muscles. If you notice pain below the neck and around your tailbone after a driving for long periods of time, you are likely not sitting up straight and having an improper driving posture.
Poor posture puts pressure on your posterior muscles, which has a negative impact on your neck. Whether your shoulders are hunched forward or your head is aimed downward, the strain put on your neck by the tightness of these muscles can lead to tension headaches.
Bad posture can put your entire system of muscles in a compromising position. If you are unable to fully relax your body at night, you may find yourself tossing and turning to find a comfortable position for your neck and back, which can lead to hours of lost sleep.
If you drive often and have a job that requires you to sit in the car most of the day, sitting with bad posture can lead to digestive issues. Neglecting to pay attention to your posture can compress your organs, which can slow the digestive process and cause stomach issues.
If you sit down for too long in the car and have improper driving posture you may increase your risk of developing pressure sores. Our custom made foam, gel and air filled inflatable cushions for car seats prevent the development of pressure sores by redistributing pressure in the cushion and thus reducing your exposure to friction.
Ideally every 20 minutes to1 hour when you can. Everyone ends up feeling stiff if they travel for long enough. However, people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), especially neck and back disorders, suffer from increased stiffness and pain after much shorter periods of time. This means that the length of time for which you can sit comfortably in a car is dependent upon your current health.
You need to be driving a car that is a suitable size for you. If you are really tall, then a small mini is not going to enable you to achieve a reasonable posture. Most cars are not designed for correct sitting posture, however you can use inflatable air cushions to raise your car if it is too low or install pedal extensions if you are too short. Gilani Engineering offers driving solutions enabling you to maintain the right driving posture. Contact us to find out how we can install brake and accelerator extensions if you are short, over-weight, pregnant or have hip or knee OA or if you would like us to make you a custom made cushion for your vehicle.
To find your ideal position you should start with the seat in the wrong position and then adjust it from there. Firstly, push the seat all the way back, then lower it as far as possible. Next, recline the back of the seat to about 30-40 degrees and move the steering wheel (if it adjusts) all the way up and in towards the dashboard.
Adjust the seat height up until your hips are at least as high as your knees. Make sure you can still see the road and the instruments. Make sure you are not so high so that you have to bend your head down or to the side in order to see. If you cannot reach down to your brake or accelerator pedals then the industry leading engineers at Gilani Engineering can install pedal extensions from 3cm-9cm and from 10cm-30cm.
If your seat is still too low, consider purchasing a cushion to give you needed lift.
Next adjust the seat forwards so you can reach and completely depress all the foot pedals without your back moving away from the back of the seat. Make sure you have a small bend in your knees of at least 20-30 degrees - having your knees too straight can cause knee pain.
Tilt of the Seat
Traditionally the bottom of the car set is set with the rear of the seat down and the front uppermost. This position is often recommended as it helps to stop you from moving forward on the seat bottom (known as ‘submarining’) when you brake, or in the event of an accident. However, modern car seats have largely overcome this problem with the addition of seat belt pre-tensioners, which stop you from slipping under the seat belt, and the backwards angle has actually been shown to decrease the hip angle and increase the pressure on your lower back/spine. Instead, you should position the seat bottom horizontally whenever possible.
The Inclination of the Seat Back
Raise the inclination of the seat back to an angle of 100-110 degrees. This angle decreases the pressure on the discs in your low back.
Lumbar support is integral to maintaining proper driving posture. Car lumbar supports are often both height and depth adjustable. Adjust the support to the correct height by positioning it in the curve of your lower back. The lowest edge of the support should be placed at your belt line or at the top of the pelvis.
Adjust the depth of the lumbar support by moving it from flat until it comfortably fills the arch of your back. As a general rule, if you were to sit fully back and press your back flat into a straight chair, the amount of curve you need is the equivalent of pushing your own hand flat into the small of your back between your lower back and the chair. If you can’t get your hand into the gap comfortably, the curve isn’t big enough; if you can get your forearm into the gap, the curve is too big. Ideally, your lumbar support should just fill the gap to help you achieve the ideal driving posture.
A towel can be rolled to create varying sizes of curve until you find the right one for you. This method is cheap, easy and massively variable, but is not a long term solution - mainly because the towel falls away as you leave the seat and it will squash flatter and flatter over time. A more permanent solution is a Lumbar D roll cushion which can easily be transferred from car, to wheelchair to office chair.
To have sufficient neck and head support whilst driving, adjust the height of the headrest so it rests in the middle of your head. To adjust front-to-back , sit with your head in a ‘neutral’ position. To do this, first sit upright, then align your earlobe between the collar bone and neck muscles. The easiest way to check you are doing this correctly is to ask someone else to watch you and correct your position. Alternatively, imagine you are tucking your head to hold a small object under your chin. Now adjust the headrest forwards until it meets the back of your head:
Adjusting Your Mirrors
Once you are sitting correctly in your seat, adjust the mirrors to give optimal rear visibility. This is vital for both your driving performance and your posture - if you look in a mirror which you have already adjusted and no longer have optimal rear visibility, your posture has probably moved. If this occurs, correct your posture and sit up straight again
Most cars now come with three-point seat belts, which have been proven to reduce injury in the event of an accident, and some have adjustable seat belts. When fastening your seat belt, try not to reach for it with the arm on the seat belt side as this puts your shoulder into a bad position. Instead, reach across with the opposite arm and turn from your body, not your shoulder. Another consideration when using your seat belt is to ensure the lap portion goes across the pelvis and not the abdomen, so that the belt catches the bones of the pelvis and not your stomach and internal organs in the event of an accident. This is especially important if you are pregnant and assists you in maintaining your driving posture.
Steering Wheel and Arm Position
In cars fitted with airbags in the steering wheels, a certain distance is required in order for them to work optimally - anywhere around 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) is a good minimal distance. A car with both height and rake (in and out) steering wheel adjustment capabilities is preferable, as you don’t have to adjust the seat front to back to achieve the correct arm/shoulder position. When stationary, you should be able to sit with your shoulder blades pressed back into the chair and, with a straight arm, your wrist should be able to bend over the edge of the steering wheel. When driving, your arm should have a bend of approximately 120 degrees.
Where adjustable, the steering height should allow a clear view of the dashboard with your palms just lower than your shoulders. Any adjustment should also allow you to grip the steering wheel in your preferred position. This is normally described in relation to a clock face - some people use the ‘nine and three’ position, whilst those with shoulder and neck problems often prefer the much lower ‘seven and four’ position. The ‘nine and three’ position gives the best leverage on the wheel but causes you to use your shoulder and neck muscles more. Try to grip the wheel using mainly your fingers and fingertips, and try to keep the grip as light as possible in order to combat fatigue. Keep both hands on the wheel as much as possible, as steering with one hand causes one shoulder to work harder and can result in a twist of the spine. Never hold the steering wheel at the top with one hand to achieve an ideal driving posture.
Changing gears on either a manual or automatic car can affect shoulder and neck problems. If you suffer from a problem which is on the same side as the gear stick, you may need to adjust your chair to accommodate this. However, this will affect the rest of your sitting position. If possible, try to drive a car where reaching for the gear stick allows the arm to remain in a neutral position - neither reaching to a straight arm, nor bending beyond 90 degrees. Many cars still have a manually-controlled handbrake or parking brake in the centre console, which people with neck and shoulder problems on that side may find difficult to operate. If this is the case, cars with foot operated or electronic parking/hand brakes are better long term options.
Gilani Engineering are NDIS registered providers.
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