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Knee pain can be a real discomfort, especially when it strikes while you’re behind the wheel. Driving can put a lot of strain on your knees, so it’s not surprising that knee pain is a common complaint among drivers. This discomfort can occur regardless of the amount of time spent behind the wheel.
Knee pain can affect anyone, from truck drivers or taxi drivers spending their entire days in a vehicle to those only going down the street for groceries. The type of vehicle does not matter either, whether it be an automatic or manual transmission, as knee pain can affect either the left knee or right knee, or both. The good news is that there are ways to reduce and prevent knee pain from occurring while driving.
Who Does it Affect?
Knee pain when driving can affect anyone but is especially common in the following groups:
As we age, our joints become stiffer and more prone to pain. This is due to a decrease in the production of joint fluid, which helps to lubricate and protect our joints. This can make it more difficult for elderly drivers to get in and out of a car and can also lead to knee pain after extended periods of driving.
Drivers With Knee Problems
If you already have knee problems, such as osteoarthritis, you’re more likely to experience knee pain when driving. This is because the knee is already under stress and is not as protected as it should be.
Drivers Who Are Overweight
Being overweight can put extra strain on the knees, which can lead to knee pain when driving. This is because there is more weight pressing down on the knee joint, which can cause inflammation and pain.
Knee Pain Can Lead to Other Issues
Knee pain can not only affect the knee joint itself but the entire body as a whole. Everything in the body is connected, so if you are having knee problems or any type of knee pain, it can affect your lower back and cause lower back pain. It can also affect the lower extremities by causing leg pain or foot pain due to the way the body is positioned when knee pain is present.
The Onset of Knee Pain When Driving
Knee pain when driving can come on gradually or suddenly. It may be worse after sitting in the same position for long periods, such as when one is driving long distances. Or, you may feel knee pain after making a sudden movement, such as shifting gears. Different knee conditions, like patellar tendonitis, a repetitive use injury, can also affect when the pain comes on and what it feels like.
Knee pain when driving can vary in intensity from a dull ache to sharp pain. It may be constant or come and go. You may also feel stiffness, swelling, or warmth in your knee.
Knee Pain When Driving: Common Causes
There are several common causes of knee pain when driving, including:
- Poor Posture: Slouching or sitting in an awkward position can put a strain on your knees and lead to pain.
- Muscular imbalances: When the muscles around the knee are out of balance, it can lead to knee pain. For example, knee pain can cause muscle imbalance between the right leg and left leg, or the right foot and left foot.
- Arthritis: If you suffer from arthritis, you may find that driving exacerbates your symptoms. The constant movement of your knees can be painful for those with arthritis.
- Previous injury: If you’ve injured your knee in the past, even if it’s fully healed, you may still experience some pain when driving. This is especially true if the injury was to the ligaments or tendons.
- Poor ergonomics: If your car isn’t set up properly for your height and build, you may find that your knees are taking the brunt of the impact every time you hit a bump in the road. This can lead to knee pain over time. Factors that might affect this include:
- the height of the steering wheel or distance the steering wheel is away from the body
- the distance your feet are from the gas pedal
- having the incorrect setup for your driver’s seat
Risk Factors For Knee Pain When Driving
Some factors can increase your risk of knee pain when driving, including:
- Age: Older adults are more likely to experience knee pain when driving. This is due to the natural deterioration of the joints with age.
- Obesity: Those who are obese are more likely to experience knee pain when driving. This is because carrying extra weight puts additional strain on the knees.
- Joint problems: If you suffer from arthritis or another condition that affects the joints, you may be more likely to experience knee pain when driving.
- Previous injury: If you’ve injured your knee in the past, even if it’s fully healed, you may still be at risk of knee pain when driving.
Preventing Knee Pain When Driving
There are many things you can do to prevent knee pain when driving, including:
- Practice good posture: Sit up straight and keep your knees in line with your hips.
- Adjust your seat: Make sure your driver’s seat is at the correct height and distance from the pedals. Adding lumbar support is a good way to prevent any body pains and future knee injuries.
- Take breaks: If you’re going on a long road trip, be sure to take breaks every few hours to stretch your legs and give your knees a rest. Use those breaks to prevent repetitive movements.
- Plan so you don’t spend a lot of time in heavy traffic
- Wear supportive shoes: Wearing shoes that provide good support can help prevent knee pain.
- Strengthen the muscles around your knee: Strong muscles can help support your knee and prevent pain.
- Use knee support: If you’re prone to knee pain, you may want to invest in a knee brace that you can wear while driving.
If you experience knee pain when driving, be sure to consult with your doctor to rule out any serious underlying conditions. With the proper precautions and treatment, you can prevent knee pain and get back to enjoying the open road.
Medical Treatment For Knee Pain When Driving
If you experience knee pain when driving, several medical treatments can help, including:
- Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medication can help relieve knee pain and anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling
- Physical therapy: Exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles around your knee can help prevent knee pain.
- Surgery: In some cases, knee surgery may be necessary to relieve pain. Talk to orthopedic surgeons and your therapists to decide if surgery is right for you.
- Knee support: Wearing a knee brace can help support your knee and relieve pain.
- Weight loss: If you’re overweight, losing weight can help reduce the strain on your knees and prevent knee pain.
If you’re experiencing knee pain when driving, be sure to consult with your doctor to find the best treatment for you. With the proper medical treatment, you can get back to enjoying the open road.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
If you experience knee pain when driving, physical and occupational therapy can help. A physical therapist can create a treatment plan to help stretch and strengthen the muscles around your knee, which can help prevent knee pain. Occupational therapy can teach you how to adjust your car seat and pedals to reduce knee pain and also how to adjust your environment to optimize your experience and comfort.
Knee pain when driving can be a nuisance, but there are several things you can do to prevent it. Practice good posture, take breaks often, and adjust your seat to ensure that your knees are in the best position. Cruise control can be helpful during long trips. You may also want to wear supportive shoes and use knee support while driving.
There are many types of pain from many different causes. Pain may be an indicator that you are doing too much and need to relax a little, or it may tell you that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. If you’re experiencing knee pain when driving, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.