Unique Tip With A Pool Noodle To Open Your Chest & Improve Your Spinal Posture While Driving

Driving for extended periods can lead to poor posture, which can result in back pain and other related issues. If you often find yourself slouching or with your shoulders hunched up while driving, this article is for you. 

Today, I'll share a unique and cost-effective tip using a pool noodle to help improve your spinal posture and open up your chest while driving.

The Problem with Traditional Lumbar Support

Many physical therapists recommend lumbar supports, that provide horizontal support to your lower back. However, I've observed that a significant number of my clients already have an excessively arched or swayed spine.

Introducing a more forward-push to such a posture can exacerbate the problem. So, I've been on the lookout for a better solution.

The Pool Noodle Solution

Enter the pool noodle. This simple, inexpensive tool can be transformed into an effective posture corrector.

Stephen Dunn holding a pool noodle

Here's how:

Cutting the Noodle

Ideally, the pool noodle should run from your lower back up to your neck. The one I have is a tad short, but it still does the trick. If you can, aim for a length that covers this entire spine.

Positioning

Place the pool noodle between your car seat and your spine, specifically between your shoulder blades. This positioning encourages you to open up your chest and sit up straighter. The moment you start to slouch, you'll feel the noodle, reminding you to correct your posture.

Benefits for the Lower Back 

Not only does the pool noodle help with your upper back and chest, but it also aids in rectifying the common lumbar arch. By pressing your lower back slightly into the noodle, you can counteract the tendency to sway or arch excessively.

Stephen Dunn put his Pool Noodle on his back.

Inspiration Behind the Idea

If you've ever used a foam roller for exercises or muscle relaxation, you'll recognize where the inspiration for this tip came from. The pool noodle serves a similar purpose, but is more adaptable for use in a car. Of course, you can also use it in regular chairs, but I've found it particularly effective for driving.

Feedback from Clients

Over the years, I've recommended this pool noodle trick to numerous clients. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have reported feeling a noticeable difference in their posture and overall comfort while driving.

How can I improve my posture while driving?

Improving your posture while driving is crucial, not only for comfort during long rides, but also for preventing musculoskeletal problems in the long run. Here are some steps and tips to ensure you maintain a good posture while driving:

Seat Position

  • Adjust your seat so that your back is against the seat's backrest, and your headrest supports the middle of your head.
  • Your knees should be at the same level or slightly lower than your hips.
  • Ensure you can comfortably reach the pedals without stretching your legs fully.

Steering Wheel Grip

  • Hold the steering wheel with both hands, ideally in the "9 and 3" or "10 and 2" positions.
  • Your elbows should be slightly bent, not stretched out or too close to your body.

Lumbar Support

  • Use the car's built-in lumbar support, if available. Adjust it so it supports the curve of your lower back.
  • If your car doesn't have lumbar support or if it's insufficient, consider using a lumbar roll or a cushion.
  • As mentioned in the previous blog, a pool noodle can be an inexpensive alternative.

Headrest

  • The headrest should be adjusted so that it's level with the top of your head. 
  • This will help reduce the risk of whiplash in case of an accident.

Mirror Position

  • Adjust your mirrors when you're in a proper posture. 
  • This way, if you slouch or change your position, you'll need to adjust your posture to see clearly in the mirrors.

Footwear

  • Wear comfortable shoes with good support. 
  • High heels or thick-soled shoes can alter the angle of your foot on the pedals, affecting your driving and posture.

Take Regular Breaks:

  • If you're driving for long periods, take breaks every hour or so. 
  • Stretch your legs, back, and neck to relieve any tension.

Exercises

  • Engage in regular exercises that strengthen your core and back muscles. 
  • This will naturally help you maintain a better posture.
  • Consider exercises like chin tucks and shoulder blade squeezes to counteract the forward-leaning posture.

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink water regularly. 
  • Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and discomfort.

Eye Level

  • Ensure that your eyes are level with the top third of the steering wheel. 
  • This will help you avoid tilting your head up or down, which can strain the neck.

Avoid Overloading the Back Pockets

  • Sitting on a wallet or any other bulky item can misalign your posture.

Stay Mindful

  • Periodically check in with your body. 
  • If you notice you're slouching, or if any part of your body feels strained, adjust your position.

By incorporating these tips and being mindful of your posture, you can ensure a more comfortable and healthier driving experience.

Stephen Dunn using his Pool Noodle in driving.

What is the best posture for driving?

The best posture for driving optimizes comfort, reduces fatigue, minimizes strain on the body, and ensures maximum control over the vehicle. 

Here's a breakdown of the ideal driving posture:

Seat Position

Distance 

  • Adjust the seat so you can easily reach the pedals without fully extending your legs. 
  • There should be a slight bend in your knees when the pedals are fully depressed.

Height

  • Raise the seat height so your eyes are level with the top third of the windshield, ensuring a clear view of the road.

Tilt

  • The seat base should be tilted slightly so that your thighs are supported along the length without pressing into the edge of the seat.

Backrest

Angle

  • The backrest should be reclined at about a 100-110 degree angle. 
  • This position distributes your body weight across your back and reduces the strain on your spine.

Lumbar Support

  • Adjust the lumbar support to fit the curve of your lower back. 
  • If your car doesn't have built-in lumbar support, consider using a cushion or lumbar roll.

Headrest

  • Position the headrest so that it's level with the top of your head and touches the back of your head.
  • This reduces the risk of whiplash in case of an accident.
Stephen Dunn using his Pool Noodle while in driving.

Steering Wheel

Height

  • Adjust the steering wheel so that it's at chest level and you have a clear view of the dashboard.

Grip

  • Hold the steering wheel with both hands, ideally in the "9 and 3" or "10 and 2" positions. 
  • Your elbows should be slightly bent and relaxed, resting on the armrests or your lap.

Mirrors

  • Adjust the rearview and side mirrors when you're in the correct posture. 
  • This way, if you change your position, you'll be reminded to correct your posture to see clearly in the mirrors.

Feet

  • Your feet should rest naturally on the pedals, with the balls of your feet pressing them. 
  • The heel should be on the floor, allowing you to pivot between the gas and brake pedals.

Hands

  • Your wrists, not your hands, should rest on the top of the steering wheel when your arms are extended. 
  • This ensures that your arms are at the right distance and angle for optimal control.


Shoulders

  • They should remain in contact with the seat back when turning the steering wheel. 
  • This ensures that you're not overreaching.

Elbows

  • They should be relaxed and slightly bent, allowing for fluid movement and reducing the strain on the shoulders.

Remember, even with the best posture, it's essential to take breaks during long drives to stretch and move around. This helps to prevent stiffness and keeps the blood circulating, reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and other health issues.

Learn more about posture from the Mayo Clinic here.

Read our recent blog on posture HERE.

In Conclusion

Improving your posture while driving doesn't require expensive equipment or complicated exercises. A simple pool noodle, easily available and affordable, can make a significant difference. So, the next time you find yourself hunching over the wheel, remember this tip. Your back will thank you!

If you'd like to learn more or discuss other physical therapy tips, feel free to call at 512.215.4227. Here's to better posture and happier drives!

Co-Owner / Physical Therapist at CORE Therapy and Pilates
Stephen graduated with a Masters in Physical Therapy in 1998 from LSUMC in New Orleans and is a licensed physical therapist in Texas since 2004. Immediately interested in hands-on therapy, he began to study with Brian Mulligan and became certified in the Maitland Australian Approach in 2003. Stephen has since studied the fascial system through John F Barnes Myofascial Release. Stephen completed a comprehensive Pilates training in 2002 and the GYROTONIC Expansion System® in 2009. The combined treatment of manual therapy with mind-body awareness exercises using Pilates and Gyrotonic concepts was the start of his whole-body treatment approach.
Stephen Dunn