Sit in a Car Without Back Pain

A lot of people are afraid of sitting in a car for a long time because it can be one of the most painful experiences if you're not comfortable. Knowing how to sit in the car in a way that will avoid back pain is the smart response to happy car travels and will help to ensure that you don't miss out on a trip, job or vacation involving lengthy driving.


  1. Don't just slump in the car. If you do, you will probably hurt yourself. The slumping position is extremely taxing on your back when sustained over long periods of time.
  2. Step in and lead with your hips. Bring your hips in and ensure that the hips go first, then the rest of you comes in. So now you are sitting on the back of your thighs and not sitting on your tailbone.
  3. Use a small blanket, a t-shirt or something else soft in order to create a support for your back. Put this right up into the region of your upper spine. Depending on your seat, it will vary as to how much material you're going to need, so experiment a bit. It is important to place this really high up along your back, right around your mid ribcage area, to get the best support.
    • Try a slightly thinner level of support. If you're not comfortable with the pieces of material suggested above, try something thinner. Take two pillowcases (nice and simple) and slide these in behind your back. You should feel your spine being supported, your shoulders relaxed. This helps to create a natural position and if you can feel your neck, shoulders and lower back relaxed, then it's doing the job. Let your thighs go by kicking your legs out and you're ready to go.
  4. Lift your back up. Place your back up on to the piece of material created in the last step. Tuck it in like a horseshoe shape above your hipbone. Notice how you're holding yourself up and don’t do anything to change this position. And then, just let your head rest.
  5. Bring your seat forward some more if needed or you may have to push the seat back, depending on your leg length. The correct distance is an important part of maintaining good posture. Your legs should just sit and should not be involved in holding you upright. Rather, you need to let this piece of material hold you up.
    • The base of your spine should be in contact with the back of the seat. If driving, position yourself this way first, then slide the seat forward until your knees are slightly bent when you depress the pedals.
    • Press your shoulders firmly against the seat. Set the back angle of the seat that that your elbows are slightly bent when you reach for the steering wheel.
    • The seat should be set as high as possible so that your leg position is as natural as possible. Check that you can see out of the car with ease and that all instruments are viewable. If you're tall, this can be harder to achieve, so use the tilt of an adjustable wheel to try to get comfortable.
    • If the cushion portion of the car seat can be angled, set it so that your thighs rest lightly on it when depressing the pedals. If you do adjust this part of the seat, it's highly probable that you'll also need to adjust the angle of the back of the seat. If the cushion is adjustable, leave a gap of two to three fingers' width between the back of your knees and the seat.
  6. If you have adjustable lumbar support in newer cars, adjust for comfort. It is correctly positioned when it supports the base of your spine in its natural position.
  7. Arrange the headrests in the right place as a passenger. Headrests are not normally comfortable for many people. You just have to learn to let your head rest on it and pretty soon your neck will begin to relax. It's probable that this is going to feel strange for you, as bringing your head back may feel weird. Persevere and just let it happen; in time, you will start to like how this feels.
    • The top of the headrest should be at least at eye level but preferably higher, such as level with the top of your head. They should be tilted at an angle of about 2cm (1") from your head. This is for safety purposes, as only if they are adjusted high enough are they likely to protect you from whiplash injuries in the event of an accident.[1]
  8. Be patient. It can take time to readjust a poor seating habit when driving. However, it shouldn't take too long for you to feel the benefits and to not fall back into the former bad postural habits.


  • Now one other thing, what you done for a while, you won’t need this and you may just need it in a different way. Some people can put it right in the middle; they can fold it up and make it like a pillow. So fold up these two pillowcases so they look like a little pillow. This is just another option. And stick them right in the middle of the rib & stick. Just bring your shoulders up, pick your back up, just hook and relax. It’s called “recline is divine” when you are sitting in a chair.
  • If your car has adjustable side bolsters, these must be adjusted only so much as they support your upper body comfortably. Any pressure and you need to adjust them back again.

Things You'll Need

  • Something to support behind your back, such as t-shirt, blanket or pillowcases

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

  • Teach Yourself, Car Buying and Maintenance, pp. 74-75, (2007), ISBN 978-0-340-93930-7 – additional research source confirming seating position, especially for driver
  1. Teach Yourself, Car Buying and Maintenance, p. 75, (2007), ISBN 978-0-340-93930-7

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