Many people commute to go to work. Whether commuters are in a car, or using a bus, train, or other public transportation, the long-term sitting can lead to health problems. Some of these include back pain, stress, increases in blood pressure, and more ergonomic issues. How one sits really matters and chiropractic care can be an important part of maintaining health while commuting. Commuters can spend hours in a vehicle. Vibrations can wear down back cartilage. Long trips can leave a commuter feeling tight and in pain. Getting out of the car after sitting for elongated periods can be uncomfortable.1 Sitting for extended amounts of time could also contribute to diabetes and heart disease. While it is often recommended that the patient stands and walks around for a bit after sitting for a long time, this is not always possible during a commute. The idea of setting an alarm to stop sitting for a while can apply at the office, but the long hours of back-and-forth commute do add up.2 According to Gallup (2007), workers spent an average of 46 minutes commuting to and from work (most between 30-60 minutes), and the vast majority drove themselves.3 Some urban areas have much longer commutes than average, and driving from the suburbs or exurbs into the city can take even more time.
An ideal option for people who are employed outside of the home would be for them to move closer to work. This would enable the options of biking, walking, or running to work.4 Living closer to work (if possible), reduces pollution and emissions, and it saves gas money, parking and toll money, car insurance, and wear and tear on a vehicle. Exercise strengthens the body and improves the immune system. Chiropractic care can support people in their healthier commuting options. Telecommuting, or working from home, may also be a viable option for some employees. At the very least, people should park far away from the office in order to squeeze in some exercise before sitting again.5 Additionally, carpooling is a good way to take turns driving while everyone in the car saves on gas, emissions, and time spent tense at the wheel. Patients are often tired at the beginning and end of the day, which is not a safe state to be in while driving. It is best to elect the most alert person in the group as that trip’s driver. Carpooling can also lighten the mood where the commuter usually has to drive solo and feels that isolation. Music, podcasts, and audio books can only replace real social interaction for so long, and the other option of driving while texting or talking on a cellphone are highly discouraged. Carpooling allows passengers to chat and laugh before and after work, helping improve mood and performance during the work day.6
Steps a Commuter Can Take
If living near the office isn’t an option, there are other steps commuters can take to improve their quality of travel. People who commute should have lumbar support in their seats. If the vehicle does not already have adequate lumbar support, one could purchase a pillow or use another object to create an artificial support. The lower back needs to be protected in order to reduce wear and tear on the spine. Sitting positions also need adjustment. Drivers should not slouch or lean too far back from the steering wheel. Everyone in a vehicle should sit with proper posture. Of course, regular chiropractic treatments can help people stay in a healthy alignment and minimize injuries and stress.7 Staying fit with proper diet and exercise, and staying relaxed, will help the body maintain strength during the stressors of commuting. It may sound like a small thing, but taking the wallet out of one’s back pocket makes a huge difference! Finally, if the seat is uncomfortable, adjusting it, rather than shifting the body, is a better step to take. These options can help prevent pain, but if discomfort happens, seeing a chiropractor sooner, rather than later, will cause less damage and will take less time for treatment.8
How Massage Can Help
Massage is another tool that can be used to combat the effects of prolonged sitting. Self-massage and massage received by a professional masseuse can both aid in healing injury caused by prolonged sitting. This first self-massage involves the use of one hand, so it is not recommended to be performed during driving. One hand should reach across the chest and rest on the opposite shoulder with the fingers resting on the back while the knuckle of the thumb is pressed against the neck muscle. The head and neck should be rotated while the thumb knuckle is still pressed against the muscle, followed by a shoulder rotation while the fingers are pressed into the back muscle. This exercise, meant to relax the neck, can be performed on both sides. Knots and tightness in the back can be worked out by rolling a tennis ball pressed against the affected areas of the back. This action is performed by placing the tennis ball between the back and a wall to assist in the rolling and pressure on the knots. Headache can be eased by placing both thumbs on both cheekbones, close to the ears. Meanwhile, fingertips on either side apply pressure to the temples while performing circular, rubbing motions all the way to the center of the forehead.9
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