Whoever invented bucket seats and whoever decided they should be the standard for cars... well, I have words for them. Strong words. Bucket seats were designed with someone in mind, but possibly not humans. It's a major design accomplishment for a chair to both leave your hips pinched and lean you back at the same time. How is that possible, you might ask?
In most reclining chairs, the seat is at a 90° angle and the back is tilted. This leaves your hips open and comfortable. Recliners are also intended for relaxing in, not for being active and attentive. In a bucket seat, the seat is tilted so the front is higher than the back, pitching your hips back, and then the back is tilted as well. Goodbye core support. Add in lumbar support, and your pelvis is being pushed back into the crux of the chair from both ends. Fantastic. From there, you are asked to do a minimum of three things (assuming you're driving an automatic):
- Use the gas and break pedals, while your hips are stuck in the vice grip of your seat.
- Use the steering wheel, while leaning back.
- Look around you in many directions and quickly, while leaning back AND with a vice grip on your hips.
It's a wonder we're as good at driving as we are, given the circumstances.
I've found a few tricks that I love for making driving more comfortable and finding my way out of not so useful driving habits.
- Change the angle of your seat so your hips and knees are even with one another (or close to it). In newer cars you can change angles and heights to your heart's content, but older cars don't have that luxury. A foam wedge works well for most people, as long as it's firm enough that it doesn't just squish underneath you. My favorite solution for making my hips and back happier is a Disc 'o' Sit Junior. It's an inflatable rubber disk, a balance toy actually, and sitting on it in the car means I am constantly moving with the car, instead of staying in one position all the time. It's revolutionized my driving life. (That toy can also act as the space-saving version of a yoga ball for sitting at your desk.)
- Use your other foot for support. Again, assuming you are driving an automatic and don't need to work a clutch. It's easy to default to leaving your left foot on the foot pad and never think about it again. However, that foot could be an excellent source of support for your pedal foot. Try this while sitting: stick your left leg out to the side, move your right leg around, and see what it feels like. Then, put your left foot in front of you with your foot on the floor, push a little through your left foot, and move your right leg around. You might notice that your right leg feels lighter!
- Vary the rotation of your right leg. Most likely, you picked a spot for your right heel once upon a time and it has stayed there for eternity, probably between the gas and break pedals. This means, to reach the gas pedal, you turn your foot out, and likely your leg as well, but when you go to the break, your leg stays turned out. What if your knee could point up on occasion? To do so, your whole leg would have to turn, instead of just your foot.
Hips and lower backs are happier with varied and well-supported movement, just what bucket seats are designed to not do. Don't be afraid to experiment with your set up and find something that works for you.
If none of these tricks work for you, comment here or contact me privately and we'll find a better solution together.