World of back health 

On the road

Staying in the same position for hours is not back friendly. Whether in the car, cycling or on one’s feet ‘The Healthy Back Campaign’ can help.


‘Hands at ten to two on the steering wheel’… Anyone sitting in a car will remember this hand position from driving school as it is the safest way to control your vehicle. But what about the rest of the body? If you are stuck behind the wheel with your upper body bent forward, you will complain of neck pain and headaches after a while. If you slouch in front of the steering wheel, you risk tension in the lumbar and pelvic area. The fact is, sitting in a car becomes uncomfortable in the long run. "Doctors say it can indeed, be the worst form of sitting" says Detlef Detjen Managing Director of Aktion Gesunder Rücken e. V. "This is mainly due to the fact that a car seat hardly allows any movement or change of position. For safety reasons the driver remains in a certain forced position and then over long distances for several hours." Both professional drivers and families who make long trips by car are familiar with this. If you drive a lot you should make sure your car seat is as back friendly as possible. When sitting in a car the focus is on safety, but at the same time must be ergonomic because if the driver sits uncomfortably for long periods of time this is also harmful" explains Detjen. "There needs to be a certain amount of room for movement so that the driver can be relaxed and upright."

The car seat must adapt to the back - not the other way around
The Healthy Back Campaign generally recommends that "the seating position should be as high as possible and additionally, a slight S-shape should be recognizable from the side of a backrest that is suitable for the spine.
The headrest should be flush with the top of the head and the height of the backrest should be in line with shoulder height," says Detjen. The 4-way lumbar support (adjustable up/down or front/back) is particularly important for the upper iliac crest. And if two or three fingers fit between the hollow of the knee and the seat, the length of the seat is also correct. "In general, car seats have improved a lot over the years in terms of ergonomics and individual adjustment.

Newer vehicles are equipped with a memory function, for example," explains the back expert, "which means that the individual position can be saved and readjusted at the touch of a button."

Arm yourself instead of getting rusty
But if you have an older vehicle ergonomic retrofit seats can be installed in almost all models and can also be transferred to different vehicles. A wide range of certified products can be found on this website. Detjen also rates activation systems such as massage mats positively: "Attached afterwards, these mats equipped with air chambers help to prevent tension and pain because they promote blood flow to muscles and connective tissue" he explains. Nevertheless, drivers should also take exercise breaks as "stretching your legs, loosening up your body or doing a few gymnastic exercises at the rest area is fun for the whole family and is good for your back," says Detjen.


Further links
Tips, information, checklists and product lists for:
  Car seats
 Car racing shells
∗  Seats in light commercial vehicles
 Truck seats
 Car seat massage systems

"Sitting in a car is the worst form of sitting for our backs - especially on long journeys. That's why the right car interior is important."

Detlef Detjen
Managing Director of Aktion Gesunder Rücken e. V.

Pain-free cycling
Those who cycle don't have to worry about circulation and blood flow but there are also risks of back problems lurking. Anyone who cycles long distances, has a compromised back and sits on a saddle with poor suspension will sooner or later suffer from back pain. "The problem is exacerbated if the bike doesn't suit the rider. Ergonomic adjustment plays a major role" says Detjen. "A good bike dealer analyses what the customer needs as well as possible. The model should be individually adapted - i.e. the saddle, handlebars and pedals, which form the so-called ergonomic triangle. Otherwise, a fitting box can help which contains templates, measuring tools and instructions on how to quickly and easily, adjust a bike ergonomically at home. Online one can also find advice at"

Interesting facts for pedalling fans
What is crucial for back friendly cycling? The saddle should fit the cyclist's anatomy, be flexibly adjustable and ergonomically shaped. "It should allow for dynamic sitting as this simultaneously challenges and relieves the back" explains the expert. The shape of the handlebar is very important. The standard round or oval shape leads to an unfavourable sitting posture and this causes discomfort in the back, neck and wrist.

"Handles with a larger surface area stabilize the wrists and weight is better distributed," says Detjen. "If the handles allow you to change position (for example by using crooks at the sides) this also helps to vary your posture which is very important. We always say that the next stance is the best…"

Further links
Tips, information, checklists and product lists for:
 Bicycle saddles
∗  Bicycles grips
∗  Bicycles pedals
 Bicycles backpacks
 Bicycles advice with scanner system
 Stepper bikes

Setting up your bike correctly
Riding a bike is healthy but making sure that you have the right settings beforehand according to your height and the type of bike is extremely important. To ensure you are sitting ergonomically you should check and adjust the seat height, saddle position, handlebar height, handlebar tilt, saddle tilt and seat length. Further information can be found at

The shoe must be your back’s friend
It's not just your back that bears the weight of your body and any load. Our feet play a particularly important role, after all a 70-year-old man orbits the earth about four times in the course of his life. "Unsuitable footwear impairs foot health and can damage the back" says Detjen.

"If shocks are not absorbed well or rolling of the feet is hindered it has a negative effect on the feet, joints and spine." The shoe must fit perfectly, the toes must be able to move adequately and be supported well. A stable upper and a flexible, grippy sole for good support and cushioning are necessary. Ideally, leisure shoes take into account the pressure distribution of different foot zones, as well as walking style and speed. "Ergonomic models also allow their owners to feel the ground, so that the sole of the foot has to react to unevenness just like when walking barefoot" explains Detjen.

Get into active shoes
While casual shoes support the natural rolling motion of the feet, active shoes support more than just the feet, but also the legs and torso. A clever damping system can compensate for negative impact and pressure force.

This provides relief for muscles and joints when running on hard surfaces. Active shoes also have round or very soft soles and stimulate the depth sensors. This has a positive effect on the entire body. Whether you are traveling by car, bike or on foot doing something good for your back has many facets. "If you don't want to give back pain a chance in the first place there's a lot you can do," says Detjen. "The most important tip is to keep moving and not to wait until it's five to twelve," summarizes the expert from the Healthy Back Campaign.


Further links
Tips, information, checklists and product lists for:
 Leisure shoes
 Active shoes
∗  Children's shoes
 Speciality shoes

Shoe tips for kids

Children are not small adults. This also applies to her feet: Although they look the same anatomically, the child's bones are still much more flexible and the nerves are not fully developed. This means: Kids don't notice a shoe that is too small or too tight. A third of children wear ill-fitting shoes. The result is foot weakness and incipient foot damage which can then lead to postural and back problems. Good children's shoes support the natural development of the feet with a flexible sole. Kids should be able to feel the ground because this stimulates the receptors in their feet. If the shoes are also lightweight and well cushioned and have a heel cap and removable insole the most important requirements for healthy feet are met.

Back tips

Further tips and tricks, for example on "How do I adjust my car seat optimally?" can be found on our page

Back exercise:
Let your muscles dance in traffic jams
If you take care of your back at traffic lights or in traffic jams, you can prevent tension and pain:

  • One option is to consciously tense the muscles, hold the tension briefly and then release it again.
  • Lolling back in your seat, pushing your arms up and against the roof of the car and loosening everything up again helps immensely.
  • Another exercise: in an upright position, squeeze your hands tightly while holding on to the steering wheel and hold the tension briefly.
  • You can do something similar with your feet by pressing them flat on the floor, tensing your gluteal and abdominal muscles and then relaxing them again after a few seconds.
  • For the neck you can hold the neck support with both hands and pull the head towards it. Hold this tension for a few seconds and then relax and stretch again.
  • An exercise that can also be done while driving is pulling your shoulders up and loosening them again or gently circle your shoulders.

Products with the AGR seal of approval:

We test and certify back-friendly products. Trust in the "World of back health On the road" on: