Replacing driver's seat due to back pain?
May 24, 2016 4:27 PM   Subscribe

My mom has been experiencing back pain due to the driver's seat in her car for the last five months. She's now looking into replacing the seat. Is this the right solution, and if so, what is a good seat to replace with? Details inside...

My mother got a 2015 Honda Civic in January. By February, she was complaining of back pain (lower back and hips), seeing a chiropractor, etc. They somehow deduced that the pain was caused by the seat of her new car, which apparently is not supportive enough for her. She's in her car all day for her job, so it probably had an even greater effect.

She's done some research, and found there have been lots of complaints of people having the same type of back pain related to their Civics since 2008. The solution seems to be to replace the seat, but she's not sure how to go about doing this. Is that really the best option, or is there some kind of cushion or something she could use? If replacing the seat is the way to go, how can she find a good one that will be comfortable for her? (For reference: her last two cars were Priuses, and she never had any issues with discomfort.)
posted by LolaGeek to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
One question: Is she placing her left foot correctly while driving? I had back pain when I first started driving my 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid, and part of it was that I wasn't using the left footrest, a.k.a. dead pedal. Instead, I was pulling my left leg really close to the seat, while my right leg was stretched out. When I figured that out and put my left foot out on the footrest as well, even though it made me feel more vulnerable, as well as moved the seat closer to the steering wheel like a grandma, it helped a lot. My whole body had been off-balance and tense because I was sitting wrong.
posted by limeonaire at 5:02 PM on May 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

We have an older car with worn seats, and got something similar to one of these. They are pricey, but great, and I use them with other cars as well. They are stiff and keep you up and forward.

We initially purchased ours when I herniated a disc in my back, but use them now because they feel better.
posted by Gorgik at 5:22 PM on May 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've had this cushion saved in one of my Amazon lists for years because I read such glowing reports about it. Sorry but I've never bought it or tried it.
posted by davcoo at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2016

Pretty much all Hondas made in 2009 or later have the same problem. Here's a thread describing in great detail how someone replaced the seats in a 2009 Honda Fit with ones from a 2008 Honda Civic Si. It's an effective fix, but note that if you get into an accident involving the airbags, insurance agents may look askance at your non-stock seats if your Civic originally came with side airbags mounted in the seat.
posted by danceswithlight at 7:24 PM on May 24, 2016

I can't answer your primary question, but: after back trauma in 2011, I replaced my car looking for both a good seat and a smoother ride. Both of those are important to me. I'll have to replace that car soon (it's a tdi), and again, seat will be the top of the list.

Two things: first, it doesn't matter whether other people say the civic seats aren't good. All that matters is that they aren't good for her. Lots of people rave about subaru seats; I can't bear them. I like my vw seats, but your mom may not.

Second, the solution for her will be particular to her. What I mean is - don't rush to get ' Certified Back Healing Support Seat', just try a few things and focus on what works for her and what she feels like she needs. I can tell you that thing that Gorkgik linked above would be sheer torture for me, I need a much more neutral and softer support, but it works for him. Amazon has countless pads and supports - order some and tryout different positions. I need my butt to be higher than my knees, and most cars don't want to let you do that. Anyway - I'd suggest you try a bunch of cushion and/or pads before you replace seats.
posted by Dashy at 7:28 PM on May 24, 2016

Seconding Dashi, try different pads (just underneath, back, or both) to try to correct the problem. A wedge shape seat cushion made out of high grade foam (suitable for wheelchair use) might do.

Or sadly, buy a larger vehicle where the hips do not sit so far below the knees in a driving position.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:51 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hmm, does she have a pre-Honda history of back problems? No? - then it could be the seat. It could also be something else, and she should see a doc and get at least an xray to ensure that there is nothing else happening there.

I have been sensitised to this as I have a friend who caught a cancer after investigating back pains in a new car - turned out the cancer was impacting on her spine and the different posture in the new car (and/or the cancer's growth) pushed it against the spine. They got it before it spread, and she is still going strong 20 years later.
posted by GeeEmm at 8:09 PM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Having driven probably 20 different models of car over the past year, I can say without reservation that while some are better than others in terms of allowing me to be in my preferred driving position while being comfortable, I have yet to find one that is impossible to adjust to a position that is comfortable for several hours at a time. Sometimes I do have to sacrifice being at my favored height or forward/back position relative to the wheel and dash, but once I got over forcing that I've always been able to find some way to make it work.

There is a bit of an adjustment period with being at a different distance, height, or seatback angle, but there is always a way, whether it's a Ford, a Chevrolet, a Subaru, a BMW, a Mazda, a Kia, a Toyota, a Nissan, or a Honda. Some take more fiddling than others, to be sure.

The vast majority of recent vintage cars have both height and lumbar adjustment that will help solve the problem in ways that were impossible in older cars that only had two adjustments. It's been a while since I've been in a Civic, but the Accord definitely has both. 6 way plus lumbar seats are pretty much standard on the driver's side these days.
posted by wierdo at 8:10 PM on May 24, 2016

The solution might not be to replace the seat, but to add some sort of pad/support. If the chiropractor can't suggest something, a physical therapist can.
posted by radioamy at 8:43 PM on May 24, 2016

I have the cushion davcoo links. It's been a lifesaver on every long distance drive I've made.
posted by Floydd at 8:53 PM on May 24, 2016

Bucket seats have terrible ergonomics, especially if you're smaller or larger than the Average Driving Human. I'd second and third the advice above to play around with a combination of removable support and readjusting the seat before doing something more drastic like changing out seats, just because what works for one person isn't necessarily going to fix it for another. In my own experience, just playing with seat adjustments or just adding support cushions was basically worthless individually, but combining the two (and as Limonaire suggests, perhaps moving the seat up much farther than feels normal or necessary) made a big difference. Specifically for my combination of car seats (2013 Subaru) and anatomy (5'3", shoulder/neck issues + occasional bonus sciatica when driving a lot) this upside-down-T looking cushion did a really good job of moving me forward in the too-deep seat in an ergonomic way, but I had to play around with settings after adding the cushion to find out how to sit with the cushion in place and not get nerve pain. All that time tweaking variables was really worth it, though.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:35 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had problems fitting comfortably in the driving seat of my VW T4 Multivan (called Eurovan in the US), and installed a Recaro Ergomed. They're endlessly adjustable and super comfortable. Adapters are available for most cars. The problem is that they are very expensive. I lucked out in that I found a guy near me that was breaking a wheelchair-adapted car that had this installed as a driver's seat, and he sold it to me for a fraction of the original price.
posted by Harald74 at 5:07 AM on May 25, 2016

I have difficulty in most cars ( I am 6'5") and they are not designed with me in mind. For lower back and hip issues I have found that BackJoy has been very sweet indeed.
posted by worlddisciple at 5:59 AM on May 25, 2016

Just throwing this out there, is it the angle of the gas pedal? ie, is it too upright?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:26 PM on May 25, 2016

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