Avoiding Car Seat Hell

A user on the mobilitywod forums posted about problems they were having while driving. I can relate. I think all car seats are ergonomically deficient. You’d think someone would have done something better after all this time, but they are terrible. The user was complaining of tight neck and shoulders. Here was my reply:
When you drive a lot, your body can get stuck in a bad position. If the steering wheel is too far forward, it can drag the shoulders forward with it. Holding the arms on the steering wheel can create tension in the arms and shoulders. Most car seats are poorly shaped. They are concave and the head rest kicks the head/neck forward. The concavity in bucket seats pushes the shoulders forward. The way the back is not optimally shaped to cause the pelvis to roll into posterior tilt, causing the entire spine to have problems. If someone spends a lot of time in this bad position, the body will rebel.
Here are some forward head on neck videos (from mobilitywod.com):
Episode 169: Forward Head on Neck
Episode 109: The Neck of a Desk Warrior
Work the thoracic spine – I’m sure it’s stiff:
Episode 294: Shoulder What to Fix First and Wii Mob
For some trapezoid work, I’d stick two lacrosse balls, one under each trap and lay on them. Arch the butt up but keep good torso position. Then move the arms overhead and around in snow angel fashion. Move the balls for optimal effect.
The other suggestions would be alterations to her car seat setup.
1. I use the Gokhale Method StretchSit cushion. It hangs nicely down from the head rest supports. However, it is usually not enough by itself in today’s bad car seats. I use some big rubber bands and attach a paperback to the back of the pillow which pushes the body forward enough to clear the wings of a typical car seat.
I would not recommend a lumbar support. It pushes the lumbar spine into extension and does not solve the shoulders pushed forward problem.
Note that this cushion should not be placed at the bottom but rather it should center around the junction between the t-spine and lumbar spine. This allows the butt to push further back and prevents posterior tilt of the pelvis. It also puts the body into a more upright position.
This then allows the head to be more upright and not be kicked forward by the bad head rest. You can still rest the head on the headrest, but the head/neck will be aligned properly on top of the spine.
2. Move the seat forward so that you are not reaching for the steering wheel. Get it as close to your body as you can get it. You may need to slide the seat back to get out of the car, but then slide it back forward when you get back in to drive. This prevents the shoulders from reaching forward and getting wiped out from holding them up there so much. Find the seat position where you can reach the steering wheel AND still have the shoulders in good position, and not forward.