Thigh pain from sitting
July 25, 2016 3:04 PM   Subscribe

What I can I do to reduce thigh pain while driving long distances?

In the last 6 months or so, whenever I drive more than 3 hours, I start to get deep, sharp pains in the underside of my thigh, usually my right thigh but occasionally my left. It also sometimes happens at work, if I spend a lot of my day sitting in meetings. My back never hurts, just the thigh about halfway between the knee and the butt and it feels like it's about an inch in from the underside. Sciatica? Piriformis Syndrome? The pain resolves pretty soon after I stop sitting/driving.

For what it's worth, I drive a manual transmission car, and I'm about 5'3" and about 10-15 lbs above my ideal weight. I've tried adding a seat cushion (this one) and it hasn't made any difference. I have a big car trip coming up soon and I'd like to be comfortable for it!
posted by otherwordlyglow to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The pain resolves pretty soon after I stop sitting/driving.

In that case, would hitting a rest stop for 15 minutes every 3 hours and getting out to walk around help? And maybe do stretching exercises too?

Also, when my thighs have been sore from walking uphill, I've used a "shiatsu" back massager pad, which contains a powered mechanism to provide a muscular massage, and sat with it centered on the back of the thigh so that the massage pattern normally applied to the spine runs on my thing muscles. The one I have fits into a chair and plugs into 120v but maybe they make ones for 12v, or perhaps it could be run through a power adapter, so that you could use it in your car.
posted by XMLicious at 3:24 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sciatica? Piriformis Syndrome?

could be one or the other, could be both, could be a lower back issue, maybe? for me (i have all 3, yay for me) what helps is keeping my quads strong and my hamstrings limber, as well has getting good stretches to my hip flexors. core strength will help if it's the lower back.

HOWEVER, if there is any kind of leg tingling/numbness then PLEASE DO NOT begin any kind of exercise or stretching regimen without seeing a doctor, as leg tingling/numbness can be indicative of lumbar disc issues, and as I say in every pain-related thread, shouting helplessly into the void, starting any kind of new exercise stuff with disc issues based on the advice of internets strangers is the worst possible idea on earth.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Do you have a wallet in your back pocket? If you wear pants while driving, keep those pockets empty.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:00 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use a BackJoy Core worth every penny.
posted by hortense at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2016

I'm assuming you have tried adjusting your seat as many different ways as it will go? I find on long drives that adjusting the angle of either the seat back or seat cushion can be nice. But I don't get sharp shooting pains in my leg either...

My other thought is to take a foam roller of some sort and a ground cloth so you can use it where ever and roll your leg out when you stop.
posted by elmay at 4:49 PM on July 25, 2016

Not sure what your pain is from, but I also developed back pain specifically from driving. One things that helps is this belt
posted by bookworm4125 at 5:35 PM on July 25, 2016

It's most likely a muscular or nerve thing as mentioned above.

But what you describe also sounds a lot like a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis, aka blood clot). You may do well to get yourself screened for DVTs at the doctor; in the meantime take stops every couple hours and just walk around a bit. (Come to think of it you may want to see a doctor regardless. They can help with other medical causes too.)

DVTs are not to be ignored; they can dislodge and travel to your lungs where they can cause a Pulmonary Embolism, which is life threatening. Ask me how I know.
posted by SquidLips at 8:03 PM on July 25, 2016

Seconding SquidLips above. DVT is the first thing that came to mind for me too (and likewise - ask me how I know).

In brief, if it hurts take breaks from sitting often enough that it doesn't. Get out of the car and walk around. Build in the extra travel time if you need to; your health is more important than speed.
posted by owls at 8:26 PM on July 25, 2016

Sounds like tight hamstrings. Lots of consistent hamstring stretching and foam rolling could help.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 8:47 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: No wallet in pocket and I really doubt it's DVT. It's been happening on and off for 6 months but I can go days (weeks, even) without feeling it. I know someone else who experiences the exact same pain from driving and he hasn't found a solution either.

I've been doing Pilates core exercises a few times a week for a couple months now and it hasn't seem to make a difference but I'm keeping up with it all the same.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:36 PM on July 25, 2016

Yup, I get this too, sometimes. I'm in the "tight hamstrings" camp - it's more likely to happen for me on days when it's "get up, get coffee, get in the van" rather than times when I've been up and moving around for a while and/or had a chance to do some stretching.

I find it can help to consciously change positions a little while driving; like, my right knee tends to drift outwards, so periodically I move it back in line with my hip, or extend my left leg as far as I can for a while, or scootch so I'm sitting a little straighter, stuff like that. Mostly, though, I just take a 10 minute break every few hours and get out of the vehicle and do a little walking around and stretching. Doesn't have to be serious Pilates/yoga stuff, just getting the blood flowing and giving your driving muscles a break.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:54 AM on July 26, 2016

My husband has dealt with this issue. He has found that wearing a compression knee sleeve eliminates the pain completely.
posted by WalkingHorse at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sciatica? Piriformis Syndrome?

I get hellacious sciatica from long car rides. I've added a piriformis stretch (ardha matsyendrasana) to my daily post-exercise workout and haven't had sciatica problems since.
posted by BrashTech at 7:53 AM on July 26, 2016

I get a similar issue too when driving long distances. I've found that using the cruise control more frequently is a fairly good solution as it allows me to take my foot off the gas pedal and rest it all the way in the back between the gas and the brake pedal. Obviously this only works for low traffic situations, but those are common on the interstate where I drive. I've also heard of people stiffening up their gas pedal with an extra spring so you don't have to keep lifting your foot quite so much. (This is for a 2008 Honda Fit, which has less than ideal driver ergonomics.) For very long drives, stretch breaks.
posted by danceswithlight at 5:13 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had something similar. If your pain is like mine, one solution while driving is to move the seat as far to the ground as it will go, so the back of your thigh does not touch the seat. This worked for me because the pain was only in my left leg, which I don't need to drive with. Hope this helps.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:18 PM on July 27, 2016

« Older iOS (Android too) map app to plot all my places of...   |   Calm the itch that AskMe scratches. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.