Explained: The cause of back & joint pain while driving and remedies

When we press the clutch pedal, rather than the muscles doing their job, an unusually high amount of load is falling on the knees.

BHPian RoadMonkey recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Over a period of time,  I’ve learnt a lot more about the human body, muscles, but especially the knees and legs in particular.

I play badminton at the club competitive level and the frequent forward lunge/jump, especially in singles has given me a dull ache in the right knee, similar to the one I complained about in my left knee w/ the repetitive pressing of the clutch pedal. Perhaps I’m just cursed with weak joints? Not quite! I got a MRI done, there’s mild tearing of the meniscus (cushion cartilage of the knees) and thinning of ACL, but nothing serious. What gives? What’s the diagnosis? Why the repetitive knee issues?

The answer, my friends, is prolonged sitting. Yes, I know that’s been mentioned many times in this thread before but I’m going to in more detail than just that and why I found more upright position helpful as opposed to a more low slung car.

When we sit for long hours, as I have for years, with minimal exercise especially stretching and leg workouts, our quadriceps (the front thigh muscles) and hamstrings (the back thigh muscles) basically become weak and tight. This means when we press the clutch pedal, rather than the muscles doing their job, an unusually high amount of load is falling on the knees. The same principles apply to the jumping lunge of badminton causing problems in my right knee.

Have consulted a ligament specialist regarding my issues and he has basically prescribed me 2 things, which I’d like to share with the forum members:

Strengthening and stretching of the leg muscles:

  • Quads – Straight leg raises, sitting or lying, then stretch. Wall sits are also very good.
  • Hamstring – Hamstring curls and stretch.
  • Calves – Standing heel raises and/or skipping, of course, stretch.
  • Glutes – Bridge and other exercises

You should search for the correct form and posture for performing these exercises:

Collagen & protein rich diet:

  • I’ve been prescribed collagen supplements for aiding in the cartilage rebuild. Protein in general helps the joints and muscles grow. One can look up the appropriate sources as per their dietary preferences.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids. There aren’t any rich food sources for this except fish or fish oil capsules. Seeds etc are a good vegan alternative but I don’t think that is as extensive as fish oil.

Now, in addition to what I’ve been prescribed, I’d also like to add a couple of points of my own:

Core strength:

Bridge, yoga, plank, whatever is your favourite exercise. We lose our core strength due to poor posture and prolonged sitting.

Light exercise:

Walking, anything that gets your knees moving, cycling, swimming, increases the synovial fluid or the “lubrication” of your joints. Try to avoid doing things that could put pressure on your knees if you struggle with a dull ache/pain. I personally also enjoy a bit of warm sesame oil massage on my knees for instant relief.

Now, as to why an upright car felt easier to drive than a low slung one. It’s the difference in how the respective muscle groups are engaged and how that puts an uneven pressure on the knee joint. The solution, however, isn’t changing the car but strengthening your legs appropriately. Driving a low slung, manual, turbo petrol car is one of the few joys of driving we must not miss out on!

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