5 Exercises to Reduce Back & Neck Pain Due to Prolonged Driving

5 Exercises to Reduce Back & Neck Pain Due to Prolonged Driving

Most of us spend an average of two hours in our cars, driving everyday to work, dropping the kids to school or sport and just doing everyday errands.

Our backs are in a slumped position for that time, our neck is pushed forward so that the muscles fatigue around the neck and shoulder after a short period and our mid back becomes stiff and sore.

Although we can’t change the amount of time we spend in the car, we can do a few exercises to minimise the pressure on the neck, mid and lower back by keeping the muscles strong and the joints mobile in these areas.

Here are my top 5 exercises to try when in and out of the car:

IMG_25371) Upper Trapezius Activation – This muscle is a very important muscle to help support the neck and upper body posture as the major stabiliser of the shoulder blades and upper body.  Sitting in the car for a prolonged period can fatigue this muscle, so reminding it to activate and work can help reduce pressure on the neck and shoulders.

  • Sitting with your hands on the steering wheel, bring your shoulder blades back and up a little bit.
  • Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  • Repeat this 10 times.


2) Bow and Arrow for the Upper Back – Stiffness in the upper back (thoracic spine) is very common after prolonged driving and increases the load in the facet joints of the neck affecting your posture.   This can be reduced with simple bow and arrow stretch to reduce thoracic stiffness which can also be performed in the car.

  • Sitting up as straight as possible, with your arms out in front, on top of the steering wheel.
  • Pull one arm down by your side at shoulder height and twist your upper back with you until your elbow touches the seat.
  • Return to the starting position with your arms in front of you.
  • Repeat this 10 times per side.








IMG_25433) Direct Activation of Your Rotator Cuff Muscles – Sitting directly on your shoulder blades, your rotator cuff muscle hold the shoulder in the correct position, especially when typing or using a mouse.  These muscles become weaker and tighter with prolonged sitting in the car and need to be trained.

  • Sitting with your arms by your side, with your elbow by your side, bent at 90 deg.
  • Place your hands on the inside of the steering wheel.
  • Activate your upper trapezius first by bringing your shoulder blades back and up a bit.
  • Push your hand against the inside of the steering wheel to activate your rotator cuff muscles.
  • Hold for 3 seconds, then repeat 10 times per side.


4) Single Leg Bridging to Activate Your Gluteus Maximus Muscle –  This exercise, working on the gluteus maximus muscle (buttock muscle) is very important because weakness in this muscle means it is harder to sit up straight when driving, which changes the posture of the mid back and neck, majority affecting neck pain.  This muscle will need to be worked when out of the car, either at home or when you arrive at work.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Raise one leg in the air, this will be the starting position.
  • Lift your bottom into the air to bring your body to straight.
  • Hold for 3 seconds, then lower your body down.
  • Repeat 10 times per side







5) Multifidus Muscle Strength (Direct Back Control Muscle) –  Again, this muscle is important for direct control of the lumbar spine, but will also need to be exercised when out of the car.

  • Start on all fours.
  • Maintain a smaller arch in the back and squeeze your lower back muscles together (you should feel a sensation of the lower back muscles pushing towards the midline).
  • Maintaining this contraction, lift your leg straight back up in the air.
  • Hold for 3 sec and lower the leg down.
  • Repeat 10 times per leg.






Want to know more?

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Just follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you!

1. book an assessment

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These can range from being more active with young children and losing weight to regaining movement after an injury, pain or surgery.

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Over the course of an hour we will test all your major joints to discover where injury, pain, lack of strength or core stability are limiting your movement.

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What is clinical Pilates and what is it not?

Clinical Pilates is a variation on traditional Pilates that takes the knowledge and skills of physiotherapists and exercise physiologists in the human body and injury management and uses the Pilates exercises and equipment in ways that are most beneficial from an injury, exercise science and performance perspective.

The real strength of the Clinical Pilates process is that it is not a strict interpretation of traditional Pilates exercises, but the basis is the knowledge of the body and injury management.  The exercises selected for a client are very specific to their needs and goals and subsequently, the effect on the body’s structures.  This really means that Pilates is made to fit around the person, not the person to fit around Pilates.  The result is that anyone, no matter their age, injuries, fitness or strength, can benefit from Clinical Pilates and achieve their goals.

In Clinical Pilates, you most likely will not perform some of the fancy, difficult moves seen in some programs such as hanging from the trapeze table or a lot of the v-shaped holding exercises, but that’s okay because these exercises rarely suit a lot of people.  What you will see is targeted, specific exercises, designed and instructed for a purpose to achieve the client’s specific goals.

Article written by Michael Dermansky – Senior Physiotherapist.

Email: michael.dermansky@mdhealth.com.au

To book your FREE full body assessment, call us now on 03 9857 0644. We are located in East Kew and parking is easy. Open Mondays to Thursdays from 7am-9pm; Fridays & Saturdays from 7am – 2pm.

How do I know if I am exercising correctly?

There are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re doing exercises correctly.

Firstly, make sure that you know what muscle groups you want to work during an exercise.  All exercises have to have a purpose to be effective and specific to your needs.  For example, if you want to work on your knee control, it is important that you work on your quadriceps, in particular the inside muscle of the quadriceps (the VMO muscle), the major stabilisers of the knee cap.  Do your research or ask a professional such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to ensure that you work on the correct muscle groups.

Secondly, learn what a normal muscle “working” sensation feels like and what is pain.  When a muscle is working, you should feel a slight “burning” sensation in the muscle you are targeting, which disappears when you stop the exercise.  You should not feel a “pain” sensation in tendons of the muscles, in the joint or in different muscles that you are targeting.  In addition, the next day or two, a normal sensation can be a soreness or bruised-like sensation.  This is called DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness), and is part of the normal muscle growth process after exercise.  It should not be painful in the area or the joint the day or two after exercise.

Thirdly, technique is also very important.  The way you do an exercise can make the difference between a great day exercise and an ineffective exercise.

To address all these three issues, ask a professional physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to design and supervise your program, at least at the start to ensure you are getting exactly what you want from your program with correct form, technique and purpose.

Written by: Michael Dermansky – Senior Physiotherapist

email: michael.dermansky@mdhealth.com.au

To book for a FREE full body assessment, call us now on 03 9857 0644. We are located at 737 High Street, East Kew. Parking is easy! We are open from Mondays to Thursdays from 7am to 9pm and Fridays & Saturdays from 7am to 2pm.

We provide Seniors Discounts during our off peak hours.

4 reasons why your feet hurt

We see many different reasons for foot pain, some are simple to fix and others that need to be managed.   This article highlights the 4 most common reasons we see foot pain and what you can do about it.

  1. Plantar fascia pain – this is the most common muscular reason for foot pain. It is felt at the bottom of the foot, usually travelling from the end of the heel to the beginning of the toes, but can vary a bit in which part of the foot gets the most sore.  The plantar fascia is a strong connective tissue that lines the bottom of the foot from under the heel to the beginning of the toes.  It’s role is to support the normal arch of the foot and the position of the mid part of the foot.  If the muscles that support the foot are not strong enough, especially the calf muscles, it puts more load onto the plantar fascia, putting it on constant stretch and causing pain.  Reducing this pain is about taking the plantar fascia off constant stretch and improving the strength of the muscles surrounding the foot including the calf and deep muscles of the shin, the tibialis posterior muscle.
  2. Shin splints – this is similar to plantar fascia pain, except the muscles breaking down are above the ankle instead of under the foot. It can cause pain into the back of the calf or into the inside of the foot.  The main aim of treatment is to make the muscles stronger so they can cope with load.  This often takes time and a modification of activities in the short term until strength improves, but this pain does get better with treatment.
  3. Swelling of the ankles causing pressure on foot – swelling of the feet can cause more pressure on all the small joints of the foot and the plantar fascia. Generalised swelling of the feet and ankles can indicate issues of circulation or heart disease.  If you find you have general swelling of the feet and ankles see your doctor for an opinion and appropriate management.
  4. Bunions – pain and swelling on the inside of the big toe, is usually due to poor biomechanics of the foot over a long period of time and wearing shoes that are tight over the toes.  This can be modified to a degree with treatment.  You can improve the biomechanics of the feet by improving the strength muscles supporting the foot, such as the calf muscles to reduce pressure on the big toe.  The big toe can also be mobilised to improve the movement of the toe to reduce swelling.   If there is enough damage to the joint, it may require surgery to correct the bunion, but this can be assessed by your doctor.

If you have any questions about the article above, please email michael.dermansky@mdhealth.com.au.

To book for your FREE full body assessment, please call us on 03 9857 0644 or fill out the form below.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome and can strength training help?

The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel the bones of the wrist create by their shape through which the tendons, blood vessels and nerves to the hand sit as they go into the hand.  It exists to protect these structures, how with excessive activity of the wrist and any kind of swelling is the wrist, that can occur during pregnancy, can reduce the space in the tunnel, putting direct pressure on the nerves and blood vessels of the hand.  Because the tunnel is made of bone at the bottom and a thick layer of connective tissue called the flexor retinaculum on the top,  even  a small degree of the swelling can compromise this space, compressing the nerve.

Once it occurs, causing pins and needles in the thumb and next 2 and 1/2 fingers, treating with exercise usually doesn’t change the procedure.  Treatment requires cutting the thick connective tissue on the front of the wrist, called the flexor retinaculum, to relieve pressure on the nerve.

Exercise can not change the symptoms much when it has occurred and surgery is needed, however, you can always strengthen the muscles of the shoulder, elbow and wrist to reduce the pressure on the wrist in the hope of preventing this injury.

For more information or questions about this article, please email: michael.dermansky@mdhealth.com.au.

To book for your FREE full body assessment please call us on 9857 0644 or fill out the form below: