Essential Facts on TMD and Ergonomics, Part II

There’s plenty of hype about the perils of texting and driving, but are you aware of the unspoken danger behind the wheel? That danger is poor posture, and your time in the car quietly adds up. The average American spends 17.5 hours per week driving. In Part II of our three-part series on TMD and ergonomics, we will explore the importance of good posture when you’re in the car.

Driving PostureBefore You Even Start the Engine

The most important step when it comes to driving adjustments has nothing to do with the inside of your vehicle. It’s how you get in and out of your car. Always make sure you sit down with both feet firmly on the ground. Then rotate your body and swing your legs around to the inside. This may be the single most important thing you can do to improve ergonomics with your vehicle.

Even the smallest strain can cause your TMJ to flare. So never reach across the driver side of the car to place large objects on the passenger seat. Instead, open a separate car door and place heavy items in the back seat, trunk or passenger seat.

Take objects like wallets and phones out of your back pocket and place them in the center console. These objects cause weight to be unevenly distributed and can contribute to back and neck tension.

The angle of the seat you choose is a personal decision. Go with what feels comfortable. But in general, your knees should be even or slightly lower than your hips. Your elbows should rest comfortably at your sides. Never have the seat slid too far back from the wheel. This forces the body and arms to reach and stretch forward to drive – a bad idea.

Now That You’re Ready to Go, What Next?

Do you remember studying a driving manual when you were younger? It was always recommended to keep one’s hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions for optimal control of the wheel. But those positions are not just about safety. It’s also a good idea for better shoulder and hand support.

Alternate your posture behind the wheel as much as possible. That is to say, make small adjustments, shifting your back from side-to-side. Remaining static or frozen in position will lead to neck and shoulder tension later.

When driving long distances, take frequent breaks. Get out and walk around, stretching as often as possible. If a fellow traveler is accompanying you, take turns with the driving responsibilities.


If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, whether you’re the family chauffeur or a long distance trucker, consider investing in a lumbar support for your driver’s seat.

Now you’re going somewhere! Next week in our final installment on ergonomics and TMJ pain, we will look at the work and home environment.


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