In modern times, it is certainly true that we spend a lot of time sitting down – be it in front of a desk at work, on the couch, or behind the wheel of our car.
And with growing commuter times, and more traffic on the road than ever, the latter can become a real issue for some people.
One such complaint is hip pain – something that can be caused by all manner of factors, and something that is only exacerbated by the time we spend driving.
But what exactly causes hip pain while driving, and what can we do to remedy the problem?
What Causes Hip Pain?
Hip pain is a common complaint, especially as we get older, and there are of course many different things that can cause it to occur.
Wear & Tear
One of the most common ailments we can accrue as we get older is hip pain – and this is caused by general wear and tear as we age.
The hips – along with other joints in the legs – take a lot of strain over the years, and we take for granted how much they actually get used, even when we are doing seemingly simple physical tasks.
This, when combined with poor habits, posture, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle factors, can lead to persistent, worsening hip pain that can be quite uncomfortable and even debilitating in some cases.
Strains & Sprains
Of course, the hip joints are also prone to being strained and sprained – either as a result of over exercising, physically demanding activities (such as manual work), poor posture, and lack of use (usually when followed by sudden activity).
When these things afflict us, they can be very uncomfortable, and can cause us a lot of pain and discomfort.
It perhaps sounds strange, but the way we stand, walk, and sit all have an impact on the longevity and health of our hip joints, and poor posture can cause all manner of pains and aches to come to the surface.
This is why it is so important to encourage good posture in your day to day life – ensuring you are sitting properly, evenly, and comfortably, making sure that you are standing up straight, and also making sure that you are wearing proper, supportive footwear when walking, running, or exercising.
However, sometimes hip pain can be caused by something more serious and chronic – such as arthritis.
These are not caused by lifestyle decisions – although they can be worsened as a result – and they are caused by genetic predisposition through your family.
Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints, and can prove very painful and uncomfortable for those suffering from it.
Hip pain can also be a root cause of sciatica – that is, a condition where the sciatic nerve is being compressed, and thus sends shooting pains down the back, legs, and buttocks.
This can be very painful and uncomfortable, and what’s more, it is usually more so when the sufferer is sitting.
As such, it can be a common problem for those who spend a lot of time driving – and can make life difficult for sciatica sufferers who also have a driving job they have to fulfill.
Bursitis is another common source of hip pain, and this is caused when the bursa – a fluid filled sack above the hip – becomes inflamed and swollen.
This usually requires medical attention of some kind, and it is best not to try and alleviate the problem yourself.
What Are The First Symptoms Of Hip Pain?
While there are exceptions to this rule, most forms of hip pain do not just happen overnight, and there can often be some symptoms that present themselves along the way.
This is one of the first signs that something is not right with the hips, and if you are experiencing groin pain or discomfort, then this is an early warning sign to perform the above stretches and change your posture.
General Hip Pain
You might also experience pain on the inside or the outside of the hip areas, and this is often a sign that something is not right.
This could be mild or intense, and can be equally as painful when sitting, standing, or moving about in your daily life.
Interfering With Activities
If you are experiencing so much discomfort that it interferes with your work, chores, or hobbies, then this is a sign that the problem needs to be looked at.
In most cases, it simply requires lifestyle changes (and potentially pain medication) to treat the problem, but in other cases it could be more serious.
Hip Pain While Driving: The Cause
It is certainly true that driving can aggravate existing problems with the hips, and while more serious problems can be the root cause – such as arthritis, sciatica, or piriformis syndrome (a condition with the hip flexors) – many problems can stem from a posture problem.
There are also a few things that can add to poor posture during driving – many of which you might be surprised to find out.
For example, when we drive with only one hand on the steering wheel (a common practice for many), this can cause a slouched posture, wherein the side of our body not holding the wheel will slump down slightly.
Another thing that can cause poor posture while driving is having an improper seated position.
This means that either our buttocks are shuffled more forward than they should be, or that we are sat at a jaunty angle that is causing our hip flexors to become strained.
How Can Hip Pain Affect Driving?
As well as causing ourselves physical pain and discomfort, there are also many other ways that hip pain can affect our driving.
Lessen Reaction Time
This can be a big problem – and if you are experiencing severe hip pain and discomfort while driving, then this could potentially hinder your reaction times.
This means that you run a higher risk of having a collision, hitting someone or something, and all round reducing your stopping time.
These can of course be detrimental – both to yourself, your property, and as a general matter of public safety – which is why it is important to refrain from driving where possible, especially if your hip pain is severe.
Ailments of any kind can also cause significant distractions while driving, especially in busy areas with lots of traffic and pedestrians.
This can obviously be dangerous to yourself and other people, and can cause any number of accidents that otherwise could have been avoided.
If you drive for your job – such as long haul trucking, or pizza delivery – then you might notice changes in your efficiency levels if you have experienced hip pain while driving.
This is a side effect of the pain and discomfort – something that could lead you to be less dynamic while driving, slower in pace, and generally more cautious.
Depending on the job that you do, this could obviously be bad for your career over time.
Improving Hip Pain While Driving
We are all guilty of poor posture while sitting for long periods of time, and driving is not exempt from this fact. However, there are certain things we can do to avoid hip pain, and improve existing discomfort caused by driving.
This is one of the best things you can do, and it really can be beneficial for the hip flexors, which become shortened when people sit for long periods of time.
There are many stretching exercises you can do to improve hip pain and flexibility, and we will discuss these later on in the article.
You could also try and take more breaks, especially when driving for long distances.
You should take opportunities to stop at rest areas, and these can be great places to stand up, have a walk around, stretch out the muscles, and give your hips a rest.
While this might not always be possible – depending on your job or the area that you live in – it is a good habit to get into if you have the means and the time.
You also need to ensure that your sitting posture is correct when you are in the driving seat. This can be easy to forget about, and our bodies often shift on long drives when we become uncomfortable.
However, most car seats are ergonomically designed to fit our posture, so sitting in line with the seat is one of the best ways to stay comfortable and avoid further discomfort.
Correct Seat Position
You also need to ensure that your seat is correctly positioned for your body. This means that you can effectively touch the pedals, you can reach the steering wheel without stretching, and that you are not too low down.
Most seats can be pumped up with a useful handle, so be sure to make use of this to ensure you do not have to stretch or reach unnaturally to reach the controls when driving.
This is especially true with younger people, who have a tendency to sit back and low in their seat while driving.
While it might not seem ‘cool’ to sit properly in the car, it can save you a lot of trouble later in life, and can avoid discomfort along the way.
Avoid Low Cars
If you have a choice in the car you purchase, then you could also avoid bad posture and the associated hip pain by choosing a car that is more ergonomic to sit in.
This means choosing something that does not require you to lower yourself into – such as supercars or sports cars – and instead choosing something more normal and comfortable to get into.
How To Improve Hip Pain With Exercise?
As well as the above measures you can take to avoid hip pain, there are also several exercises and stretches you can do at home to ensure your hips are as strengthened and protected as they possibly can be.
Many of these do not take much time, and are especially easy to practice within the home – meaning no gym or special equipment is necessary to feel the benefits.
Standing Lunge Stretches
Lunging is not only a great exercise for the hip flexors, but it is also good for the thighs and glutes – areas that can be troublesome for a lot of people.
For the standing lunge stretch, you use the following steps:
- Stand up straight with arms by your side
- Place your hands on your hips, and you knee forward
- Step forward with your right foot, until you are in a ‘splits’ position
- Lower the right knee to a 90 degree angle, while extending the left leg behind
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Release and switch sides
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Another stretch is the kneeling hip flexor stretch – and as the name implies, this targets the hip flexors directly, and can be beneficial for those with hip pain.
To do this stretch, follow these steps:
- Kneel on both knees, resting your butt on your heels, while the balls of your feet should be touching the mat/floor
- Lean forward, pressing palms into the mat. Keep hands shoulder width apart, and elbows slightly bent
- Bring left knee through the gap, placing the left foot flat on the mat in front of you
- Straighten upper body, placing both hands on left knee
- Extend right leg out behind you
- Lean forward for more intensity
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Release and switch
Seated Butterfly Stretch
The seated butterfly stretch is another great exercise, and can be done by following these steps:
- Begin seated with legs in front of you
- Bring each ankle close to the groin slowly
- Bring both feet together, soles touching
- Hold your ankles, and use your elbows to press knees down
- Apply pressure and lower yourself closer to floor
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Repeat if necessary
The basic bridge is a staple of yoga and exercise, and is highly beneficial. This can be done by following these steps:
- Lying on back with knees bent and hands by side
- Raise hips off the ground, keeping shoulders and feet flat
- Once raised, lift one foot off the ground
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Repeat and switch
What Are The Benefits Of Stretching?
There are of course numerous benefits to stretching and taking regular exercise, and in many cases they can be noticed fairly early into the regimen.
One benefit of stretching is improved flexibility, and this is something that people with hip pain (and other joint pains) will benefit from, especially as they get older.
By improving your flexibility, you not only help to maintain your range of motion as you age, but you can also make general life much more comfortable and easy in the meantime.
Stretching also helps to work the muscles, and by doing so you can improve the strength of the chosen areas.
With regards to hip pain, the muscles play a large role in maintaining function and motion, and as such, improving the strength of these areas can be a great way of bolstering your hips, avoiding discomfort, and preparing your body for the demands of everyday life.
Perhaps more importantly than other aspects on this list, stretching and exercising can also be a great way to improve your comfort levels – something that is highly beneficial for those with hip pain (especially if they drive for long distances).
This can not only improve your comfort, but it can have distinct benefits for your mental health, and the way you experience daily life.
Many people in chronic pain experience depression and other symptoms, and by easing the pain and introducing comfort into your life once more, you will be surprised how better you can feel mentally too.
Potential Weight Loss
As with any exercise and repetitive motion, there is also the potential for some minor weight loss.
This is obviously a desirable thing for most people, and along with a healthier diet and other lifestyle changes, it could prove to be an effective lifestyle choice.
Along with potential weight loss, there is also a chance at toning the existing body through continued exercise and stretching.
This is obviously beneficial for numerous reasons – ranging from strength, comfort, and aesthetics, and can be a great way for people to feel and look good.
How To Know If Hip Pain Is More Serious?
While most sources of hip pain can be fairly innocuous, and are caused by the above mentioned posture issues, there can be some cases where it could be a sign of a more serious problem.
Sharp Sudden Pain
While all hip pain should be monitored and reported to a doctor if continuous, sharp sudden pain could be a sign of something more serious, and this should be an indicator that traditional stretches and exercises might not get the job done.
Unresponsive To Exercise
If your pain continues to persist, even despite stretching and exercises, then this will also be a sign of something more serious, and in this case you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
While most forms of hip pain are fairly treatable, it could be a sign of a more serious chronic condition like arthritis, and if this is the case, then it might be a case that you need pain medication to manage the condition.
What’s The Fastest Way To Relieve Hip Pain?
If you do experience severe pain or aching in your hip area, and you find yourself in need of instant relief, then there are a couple of things you can do to lessen the pain.
Most forms of hip pain are caused by inflammation of some kind, and if this is the case, then the application of ice packs to the affected area can be a great way of alleviating some of the discomfort, bringing down any swellings, and making you feel better quickly.
However, you should always be sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid further skin irritation or ice burns.
Over the counter painkillers can also be useful for alleviating some of the discomfort – however these are often not sufficient enough to make the pain go away entirely.
Some of the best methods (aside from prescription drugs) are to use topical pain relief – usually coming in gel form – which can then be applied directly to the source of the pain.
This is usually marginally more effective than traditional pill painkillers, as it is more focused on a specific area.
Massaging the area yourself can also be a good way to alleviate some of the discomfort. However, it is important not to apply too much pressure, or to do it for too long, as this could worsen the condition further.
The best thing to do is to gently apply pressure to the muscles in the hip area, gently loosening them with circular movements.
However, if you can see a professional, then it is always better to get their advice first.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about hip pain while driving, what causes the problem, and the best ways to solve it.
It’s true that, in modern times, we often find ourselves feeling more aches and pains – namely due to the amount of time we spend in our cars, at our desks, or in other positions that encourage bad posture.
However, there have also never been so many resources at our disposal – ensuring that we can learn more about our bodies, and solve the problems as they present themselves.
So if you experience hip pain while driving, then be sure to give some of these techniques a try. Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!
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