Workstation Ergonomics and Posture Part 3 – Commute to Work

Members of today’s workforce sit for most or all of the day while at their job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a government contractor in McPherson Square, a lawyer on K Street, or federal employee in Downtown DC, chances are you spend most of your day in a seated position.

With all this time spent in a seated position, proper workstation ergonomics can make the difference between being comfortable and experiencing headache, neck pain and lower back pain throughout the day.

Commuting to work is a large part of everybody’s day, especially with the traffic getting in and out of downtown DC. Whether it’s sitting in your car for 2-3 hours a day, sitting on the Metro for 45 minutes each way, or carrying your heavy bags on your walk to work proper posture can make a large impact on how you feel.

Here are some suggestions for improving your posture on your commute to work

Proper Posture in Your Car

Sitting in traffic every morning on I-270 South, I-66 East or the Capital Beltway can be tedious and time consuming. It can also cause and exacerbate low back and neck pain.

Seat Position

The seat back should be upright rather than angled back which will prevent the driver from falling into a reclined position. A pillow should also be placed the low back to aide in keeping an upright posture. This positioning will also help keep the shoulders back rather than rounded forward and bring your head to a neutral position with the center of your ears over your shoulders.

Make sure your seat is not too far away from your steering wheel. You want to be able to comfortable reach the pedals and the wheel while keeping relaxed shoulders and sitting up straight.

Most if not all cars will also allow you to tilt your seat forward. The will place the sitting surface at a downward angle and keeps the pelvis neutral taking pressure off the low back.

Helpful Hint: After properly setting up your seat, make sure to re-adjust your rear-view mirror. Now that the rear-view mirror is set at a new position based on your correct posture, this will act as a “cue” that you have begun to slouch as you will not be able to see without sitting up straight.

Hand Position on the Wheel

While you may have been told to keep your hands in the “10 & 2” position on the wheel this can force you to elevate and round your shoulders forward. This forces the muscles that elevate your shoulders to remain engaged and potentially strain your neck muscles which activate when your shoulder muscles fatigue.

A better position for your hands is to be at “9 & 3” or below. This allows your shoulders to remain relaxed in the back and down position.

How Should I Carry My Bag on the Way to Work?

Many commuters travel with laptops or heavy purses and briefcases to and from work. Single shoulder strap bags are most common for men and women and can put significant strain on the side the bag is being carried on and can force the head forward further straining your neck muscles. Using the handles on the bag allows you to keep your shoulders back and in a neutral position. This also will allow you to distribute the weight through multiple muscle groups (forearms, biceps, shoulders) reducing overall strain.

A double strap “back pack” bag is recommended to evenly distribute the weight across your back. Make sure the straps are set at the same length and that the bag does not sag down to your waistline.

These improvements to your car and carrying posture may not be easy at first. Remember, most individuals sit with a slouched posture and have for years. However, being aware of small improvements can have big effects.

Proper Workstation Ergonomics

As discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series (found here: Workstation Ergonomics Part 1, Workstation Ergonomics Part 2) proper workstation ergonomics begins with correct seated posture and proper positioning of the components that make up your desk.

As always, please feel free to email me at with any questions or topics you would like to see discussed in this space, give me a call at 202-733-5604, or schedule an appointment to come meet with me in person and discuss a personalized treatment plan.

Talk to you soon.

Dr. Rosenberg

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