Ms. Meniscus gives advice about shopping for car seats
Dear Ms. Meniscus:
What is the best car seat for people with arthritis in their back? I have osteoarthritis in my lower and upper back and I’m about to buy a new car. Which seat is best?
Dear Sittin straight,
I remember when a quality car seat meant that there was more than two inches of cushion on essentially a wooden bench! Choosing a new car today is much different.
When you have to drive with your head cocked to the left or you have to hunch over the steering wheel because the ceiling of the car is too low, you know you have a problem which will eventually add un-needed stress to your back
It is imperative for you to keep a couple things in mind when choosing the right car and car seat for you. Aside from aesthetics, you need to determine your needs for the vehicle. If you will be spending lots of time driving, it becomes more important that you choose a car with a seat that will accommodate those long hours – for your back’s sake. Just remember, budget-friendly cars tend to include cheaper materials and are not ideal when it comes to long commutes. You might find that your back becomes stiff even after a 20 minute ride in a cheap, bucket seat.
Some things to look for include adjustable seats (there are 16 and even 20-way adjustable seats which can accommodate your every need) and automatic lumbar and lateral controls as well as massage, heating and cooling. These are usually extra-cost seats, often called comfort seats.
The size of the seat – and the car for that matter – is also important. When you have to drive with your head cocked to the left or you have to hunch over the steering wheel because the ceiling of the car is too low, you know you have a problem which will eventually add un-needed stress to your back. When you sit in a car you are considering buying, sit up straight and bring the seat back so that it is more upright. This way you will know if you have a headroom problem.
If you cannot afford a new car with a lot of seat features, consider purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle with great seats which can be more affordable than purchasing a new car. Alternatively, there are some good aftermarket seat covers and pads that you can install in any car. These aftermarket covers can include massage/heat/cooling functions and even lumbar/lateral supports to ease the stress on your back.
If you have the option, consider having someone else drive you around. This will give you the opportunity to relax while in the passenger’s seat. As a passenger, it is legal to recline your seat and take a nap, which might be the most relaxing way to spend a trip in any car. That is unless your chauffeur turns out to be your permit-holding, brake-friendly, teenage daughter. In which case, it would be advisable to nap with one eye open or just drive yourself – for your back’s sake.
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