New car, yay! Hip pain, uh-oh.
May 22, 2013 8:45 AM   Subscribe

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new Subaru Impreza, which I drive for 45 minutes twice a day. Now I'm developing pain in my right hip, and I suspect there's a connection, or something I'm doing wrong, posture-wise.

I'm going to tweak all possible settings for the seat, steering wheel, etc., and stay aware of how I'm sitting. I was wondering if anyone else has had this issue, especially with Subarus, and whether you found adjustments and/or strategies that helped. For instance, did it seem to be specifically a matter of distance from pedals (or how I depress the pedals), or something unexpected such as seat back tilt?

I've searched online and found various suggestions; I would like to hear your first-hand experiences. Thanks.
posted by dywypi to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Do you keep your wallet in a back pocket? It might not have bothered you in your old car (? if you had one?), but the pedal distance/seat height in the new one might be just different enough for the wallet-in-back-pocket to become a troublemaker. I have one pair of pants in particular that make my wallet sit kind of oddly, so I take it out when I'm wearing those pants and driving.
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also pay attention to how you get in and out of the car. Put both feet out then stand, not just on one leg. When you sit in the car, make sure that your hips are square to your seat and you don't have to stretch your foot out for the pedal.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2013

I had car-associated right hip pain when I first got my Toyota Yaris! Three years later, I don't anymore. It could be my body just got used to it, but I'm pretty sure I noticed a big difference when I changed my shoes (used to usually wear heavy clogs, now I usually wear floppy moccasins).
posted by mskyle at 8:59 AM on May 22, 2013

It could be the distance you are sitting from the steering wheel. I know if I sit too close or far, I get a little hip and back pain.
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2013

I had a herniated (then dessicated) disc. I had bought a new Camaro, stick-shift. It became apparent after 6-Months that I had to trade the car in and get something else due to intense back pain and sciatica.

I got an Acura Integra automatic. That worked.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2013

I have a Subaru too, but I haven't noticed any aches and pains that I've had with it that I didn't have with my previous vehicles.

I'm wondering though if maybe it could be how your foot interacts with the pedals? I notice that I get a bit fatigued in cars where the pedals are too high for me to be able to rest my heel on the floor and just pivot my foot for the accelerator/brake, because I'm basically holding my leg up the entire time I'm pressing the pedals.

Also, is it a manual car? My father had a car a few years ago that caused him quite a few aches and pains on the right side of his body from shifting gears.

I think the suggestion of getting out by putting two feet on the ground is a good idea, too.
posted by ohmy at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2013

I had some weird cramping when I bought my car a few years ago. Did some trial-and-error with the position of the seat and steering wheel until I found my happy place.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:18 AM on May 22, 2013

When I got my Camry (brand new in 2008) it literally took me two or three months to find a good, comfortable seat position. The damn thing had so many features built into the stupid seat (straight up/down, seat tilt, front leg lift, etc.) and the leather/padding was much more supportive/firm than the beat-up minivan I had been in before that it seemed I was just resigned to be uncomfortable.

Part of it was as rtha mentioned. I kept my wallet in my right back pocket, and it used to sink right into the old fabric and foam of the minivan. New car, it jammed into my tailbone.

Part of it was being visually used to being a certain distance from the dash/steering wheel, which didn't really equate in this different setting. Same distance at the dash, but completely different distance at the pedals.

Part of it were those damn three extra "movement" options in the seat portion, especially the front of the seat cushion that raises up. What felt good on initially sitting would start to hurt me after a half hour, and adjusting it then would relieve that pain but cause other discomfort.

I took to getting in the car, playing with the seat options and driving. If it hurt or was uncomfortable, I would remember what was painful about it, do slight adjustments but wouldn't make an evaluation on those adjustments until I had been out of the car for at least a few minutes to give my body time to "reset."

After I got it right, I wouldn't let anyone drive my car EVER. Today, a few years later, it's kinda broken in, and it honestly doesn't matter if I have to readjust the seat after my wife drives it or not. It's all pretty comfortable.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2013

I have driven over 200 different cars for at least an hour a day. None have ever caused me hip pain. I would look for other causes, maybe as my doctor.
posted by BenPens at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2013

I had an Acura RSX that killed my right hip. I think it was due to both the lower profile seats and the fact that it was a manual - the pushing with the left foot/leg all the time was probably throwing off my alignment. At one point when I owned that car I tore my achilles and didn't drive for a few months; during that time the hip pain went away entirely. Once I started driving again, I was sore within a week or so. I sold it and bought an automatic Jeep Grand Cherokee and haven't had any issues since then.

So yes, this is definitely something that could be car related.
posted by _DB_ at 11:23 AM on May 22, 2013

I also drive a new Subaru Impreza, and I have had no hip pain. I sure do love that car!
posted by orangek8 at 12:59 PM on May 22, 2013

My husband's Subaru is the only car I've ever driven where there's a structure that prevents me from holding my foot straight when using the gas pedal. There's this bulkhead thing that extends into the space where my heel wants to rest while using the gas pedal, such that my heel has to instead be on the floor in front of the brake pedal with my foot rotated outward to rest on the gas. Because of how joints work, this leg rotation actually happens at the hip. I find it terribly uncomfortable to drive his car for more than half an hour or so, especially on the freeway when I'm not switching to use the brake pedal much.

Does your Subaru have the same annoying feature? I haven't found any way to correct for it, although I suspect that putting a small cushion alongside my hip might help prevent the muscle fatigue of rotating my leg outward-just-so for long periods of time. Mostly I just drive my own car, which has appropriate room on the floor for my foot.
posted by vytae at 2:30 PM on May 22, 2013

Sciatica flared up when I started driving a new car, and the physical therapist I went to said most new cars have some variety of bucket seat, where your tailbone rests lower than your knees. Older cars have those bench seats where you're just sitting on a horizontal surface with no slant, which puts less strain on some of your joints. As suggested by the PT, I got a small pillow that I kept on the seat, which raised my tailbone closer to the height of my knees, and the pain went away.
posted by margoc19 at 6:32 PM on May 23, 2013

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