This commute is killing me.
January 23, 2020 6:11 PM   Subscribe

As of very recently, I have a longer commute - one hour each direction. It is giving me sciatica and I have barely been taking the new route yet. What are some strategies to reduce pain from spending a long time in your vehicle?

I have an old injury that is aggravated by long periods sitting down. Regular exercise helps but the commute is stealing my gym time right now. The commute is likely temporary but until I can change it, this is going to become intractible soon. Please hope me.
posted by crunchy potato to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Does your route allow for a midpoint break? Can you pull over somewhere and get a coffee or something that lets you get out of your car and walk for a bit? It would, unfortunately, extend commute time but it might be worth it to have a 15min break from sitting, if possible.
posted by acidnova at 6:16 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Take your wallet out of your back pocket. I get sciatica if I leave it on long drives
posted by dripdripdrop at 6:29 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]

Get yourself one of these. Saves my back.
posted by pyro979 at 6:31 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Is there any chance that you could take public transportation, so you could move around more?
posted by pinochiette at 6:38 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

If your car has a seat heater, turn that on to encourage blood flow to your back. Don't wear anything that constricts your waist or ankles for blood flow. Drive without shoes. Do side leg lifts to strengthen muscles. Tilt your seat forward to encourage blood flow. All of these things have made my sciatica GO AWAY, but I have to keep doing them or it rears its ugly head again. I hope some of these are helpful for you. Cheers.
posted by effluvia at 6:49 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]

What about a massage car seat pad? Most seem to have vibration in the bum with rotating units in the back section, along with heat.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:53 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Aylio or TravelMate cushion with a tailbone cutout. Gel-filled ones are really nice too. It has changed my life as a musician who drives a lot. I have a really bad lower back and that pillow, on drives over an hour, makes the difference between being f’ing immobilized the next day and being a little stiff but fully mobile. It’s not even close. I don’t *really* like using it, if I don’t “have to,” honestly, because I like sitting low and driving fast in my spry little Mazda, and this thing does give you a higher center of gravity in the seat and a little less of that strapped in feeling. So I’ll keep it on the back seat sometimes if I just have to drive an hour or it’s a fun road, and my wife will remind me of the price I will pay for that. Because she knows how much of a difference it makes. I can not recommend it enough. Also I can manage 9-10 hours of driving straight with it, without it 6 max and I’ll pay dearly for that.
posted by spitbull at 7:27 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]

And oh hell yeah seat heaters are the shit for a bad back, that’s their real utility. I’ll use mine in warm weather if I’m sore enough.

Oh, I just acquired a seat *cover* that is pretty well padded but also includes leg bolsters that are thick and spongy, right under your lower thighs and calves. This pushes your legs out and makes them more mobile and flexible in single-position driving (like long interstate straightaways). I’ve had it about two months and I would say it has helped (last month was a really heavy driving month). The keyword to search for is “bolster.” It takes a couple drives of getting used to the feeling.

The other critical thing is to change position a lot. Automatic seat controls make that much easier.

Of course there’s nothing like a more luxurious and larger car to smooth over the long commute. Whatever you can do to soften your ride a bit might help. That means running on soft-compound tires (exactly why I like my Pirelli P4s) and using the smallest wheel and thus most tire sidewall you can for your car. If your shocks or struts are aging, that’s a lot of comfort bang for the buck to replace those things. You do pay a gas mileage penalty for softer-compound tires (not soft in the sense of less air, always inflate to manufacture spec unless you know what you’re doing messing with that for particular terrain or weather). But bumps will be less jarring on your spine.

I have an awful back caused in part by years of sitting on the bench seats of trucks on endless drives with bands in my foolish youth. Young people, take heed, care for your spine.
posted by spitbull at 7:39 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Honestly, pilates. You need to improve your core to be able to handle sitting for long periods. Everything else is a bandaid.
posted by Jubey at 1:08 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]

A regular massage can help work cricks out

Change the seat position often, a bit closer, a bit further, a bit laid back, every few days.

Try and relax while driving. Have a lighter grip, listen to something non-aggravating.
posted by nickggully at 6:56 AM on January 24

What about a massage car seat pad?

I’d be careful about this. My husband’s got a couple of herniated disks, and when he had an hour or so commute thought a massage pad would help. We learned later it was probably making the back problem worse.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:17 AM on January 24

listen to something non-aggravating

Don't listen to anything that grinds your gears. It's cumulative. - HourCommuterGuy
posted by j_curiouser at 8:20 AM on January 24

Visit a physical therapist to get exercises you can do. Exercise and stretching are most likely to provide long-term help.
posted by theora55 at 8:25 AM on January 24

Car seat positioning matters. It took me ages of trial and error to figure mine out, but you might start from this super-detailed PDF to determine a starting position and then tweak from there.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:26 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]

As you can see, dozens of different approaches, options, suggestions. And you know this already I'm sure but as a veteran of chronic sciatica/lumbar issues, I'll share the following. Purely subjective, but, well...

End of my story first: After several years of different attempts I resorted to surgery which finally permanently alleviated my condition.


Before that, I tried weekly acupuncture, core work at the gym, seemingly endless visits to the physical therapists (which would aggravate rather than help my condition), months of massage, different meds for muscle relaxing and pain relief (made me constipated and did nothing re a 'cure), special seating, exercise balls, rubber stretching things, meditation, prayer, and several deep cortisone shots (ugh)...etc.

Naturally, all of this was to avoid surgery. But then I succumbed.

I spent a month interviewing neurosurgeons, found a good one (young and the most knowledgeable about modern techniques), had the MRI, did the surgery and the re-coop and finally had my life back. The only regret is that I hadn't considered surgery sooner.

Again, just another view to add to the above. And I'm hoping your situation will be remedied by one or more of the less invasive ideas in this thread.

Good luck to you.
posted by zenpop at 10:19 AM on January 24

Jubey has it: "You need to improve your core".
I found a series of exercises and tai chi three times a week was essential for me to handle my nearly-an-hour commute. Unless you strengthen your core, you're screwed.
posted by anadem at 8:39 PM on January 24

« Older Cult-y Organizations and Work?   |   Department slogan for a bunch of video-game... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments