A 2017 study found that driving at 120km/h for 1 hour affects the lower leg (tibialis anterior) muscle.Does driving a car cause leg pain? Lower leg pain near the knee is possible given that a 2017 study found the lower leg muscles have a 29% reduced response after a 120km/h for 1 hour. Sciatic pain or blood clots are possibilities too when driving for long hours.
Lower leg pain while driving
Lower leg pain is uncommon while driving, compared to lower back pain. A comparison of drivers in the USA and Sweden found that in each country 50% of those questioned reported low back pain instead.
Nevertheless, it is common to feel numbness or strain from a long period of driving.
Leg pain after driving long distance
Someone shared about sciatic pain from driving:
When I drive my auto for more than a half hour I get a pain on the underside of my right leg from below the knee to right below the buttock. Putting the auto into cruise control and positioning my right leg straight up and down sometimes stops the pain . What is the sciatic nerve , which my wife says is the problem?
Dr. Robert Hayden, DC, Ph.D., an American Chiropractic Association (ACA) media spokesperson and chiropractor in Griffin, GA said
Flying and driving mean long periods of sitting, and sitting is a position typically not friendly with sciatic pain. Frequent stops ideally after each hour of driving is the best way to prevent sciatica pain from sneaking up on you.
Driving a car for long hours can affect your leg. Do observe your legs and see if there are swelling too.
Emergency room physician Troy Madsen says:
the risk of a blood clot in your leg from sitting too long is reason to visit the Emergency Room. Find out why sitting for a long time during a car drive or plane flight can be dangerous, who can be at risk, and what you can do to prevent it.
A 2017 study tried to find the consequences of a simulated car driving at constant high speed (120km/h for 1 hour) on the sensorimotor control of leg muscles and the braking response. While there is no reduction in braking response (that used the plantar flexor muscle), a 29% reduced response was measured from the lower leg muscle.
What leg muscles are used when driving a car
The main muscle used during driving includes the plantar flexor muscles (legs connecting ankle and leg) and dorsiflexor muscles (lower leg).
- The plantar flexor muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) play a key role in adjusting the force exerted by the foot on the accelerator pedal.
- The dorsiflexor muscles (tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior muscles) maintain the foot position on the accelerator pedal.
How do I stop my legs from hurting while driving
If you experience leg pain while driving, you can try these suggestions:
- Reposition your seat by pushing the seat back or forward. Many drivers feel instant relief by pushing their seat back to allow legroom for the leg to stretch out. This is especially useful if you're on a highway and unable to stop your car for a quick stretch break.
- Take frequent breaks. Experts suggest drivers stop every 30 minutes and do some leg stretches. Step out of the vehicle, put your foot up on the car seat, and stretch out the hamstrings. You should hold a stretch for at least one minute. Rub the thighs to get the blood flowing. Take a quick walk around the rest area.
- Utilize cruise control. This can be a good option for long-distance driving and can help keep your feet flat on the floor. But be sure to avoid sitting in bucket-style seats for too long, as having your knees higher than your hips can cause hamstring and glute discomfort.
- Use a massage tool such as a massage bar to deeply massage the thigh muscles.
- Learn simple car exercises to practice while driving like stretching your toes, pumping your ankles, moving your shoulders and arms in circular motions, or tightening and relaxing your leg/calf muscles periodically.
- Drink plenty of water as dehydration can also cause leg cramps.
- Apply cold or heat therapy is a good way to alleviate pain on a long road trip. Some cars have heated seats that provide continuous low-level heat, which can be a good option while driving if it is comfortable and provides relief.
- Once you reach your destination, walk around and do some light stretches. It's vital to get the blood circulating properly through our body after your journey ends and you stop driving. Avoid sitting for a few minutes, unless completely necessary.
If you're experiencing chronic leg pain each time you drive, you might need to consider checking with a doctor or physiotherapist. Ignoring any pain in your body, whether caused by driving, or any other physical activity can be dangerous in the long run.
Physical therapist Todd Wellman says
The goal is to keep your legs at a 90-degree angle rather than stretched out, which puts pressure on the lower back. However, be sure that your seat is not too close to the airbag as that can pose another kind of safety hazard.
Driving is not good for long hours. Some Uber drivers feel the effect of driving too since they have to drive many hours and earn their income. Leg pain can be prevented by taking the measures we listed and if it persists, a visit to a physician might be necessary to ensure there are no health problems.