Put the Brakes on Back Pain

A guide to surviving sitting in the carpool line
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Sitting in the carpool line to pick up your kids can drive your body crazy — literally. Hours of sitting still as you shuttle children from school to practice and home again, mixed with the vibration of the car, can irritate your back and cause pain and stiffness. Even worse, bad posture, slumping or craning your neck can add to the compression of nerves and decreased circulation.

Carol Green, a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina who is also an ergonomic expert, notes that spinal discs receive nutrients when you move, so sitting still for long periods will almost certainly make achiness increase. Following are her tips on how to combat back pain when you are the kid chauffeur.

Know your numbers. Ergonomically speaking, when sitting in a car your back and hips should be at a 90-110 degree angle to relieve lower back pressure. You should also use a small lumbar pillow or cushion for support.

Clock in. Hand position on the steering wheel while driving should be at 3 and 9 o’clock, or 4 and 8 o’clock,  not 10 and 2 o’clock, to reduce fatigue in the upper back, shoulders, arms and wrists.

Drop the weight. Did you know the weight of your head looking down at your phone adds extra pressure to your neck? Hold your phone at eye level when waiting in the carpool line.

Move when you can. If you can exit the car, stretch or stand and do arm circles to promote blood flow. If you stay in the car, work on neck stretches or squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Carpool lines are part of daily life for many moms, but a physical therapist can assist you with a proper plan to prevent spine problems before they start.

Michele Huggins is the editor of Charlotte Parent magazine.