…But we can recommend cars that’ll work for you, not against you.
Best cars. Bad backs. Two things you’re curious about.
My back likes to take a vacation once a year or so. Usually it happens when doing something completely innocuous like sneezing or brushing my hair — my back is doing a great job of supporting my body, and then suddenly it goes out. The next days and weeks are spent convincing my daughter that I cannot pick her up, and avoiding extended car trips at all cost.
I’m lucky because for me the pain is a passing phase, and I can try to accommodate my needs without disrupting my life significantly. What about people who deal with chronic back pain? For whom it is more than a temporary inconvenience? What features are make or break when car shopping? And what cars live up to their expectations?
I asked a friend with ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-inflammatory disease primarily affecting the spine, to survey her fellow sufferers and find out what a car needs to be comfortable on a day-by-day basis.
Heated seats. I was surprised to see this listed more often than any other feature, though it makes sense. When your back hurts you reach for a heating pad, so of course it would be useful in the car.
What to look for…
Multitudes of seat adjustments. Sitting in one place for too long raises the pain scale, and the easiest way to remedy this is to adjust your position. Lumbar adjustments are particularly crucial. Electronic controls were popular.
Cameras. Twisting your neck and body to back out of a parking space can be painful; back-up cameras and blindspot warning systems prevent that.
Seat height. This was very specific to the individual. Some people prefer a car that is low to the ground, and some could not get in and out of the car unless it is higher. This depends on your specific pain and mobility.
Power liftgate. The hatches on some cars are heavy and I find them hard to shut even on a good day. But for someone with chronic pain that movement and the force involved can be excruciating. For vans, power sliding doors are also useful. Basically, the more power options the better.
What is perfect for one person may be less amazing for the next, but there are definitely makes and models in every price point that are known for their comfort. One recommendation is to see if you can rent the type of car you are considering for a few days and test the comfort for a longer period than a simple test drive.
There were three brands that were consistently mentioned…
Brands to watch out for…
Lexus – The clear winner in all-around luxury as well as being known for amazing comfort and support, the Lexus also comes with the myriad of feature options you would expect of a car in this class. From power folding seats and liftgates to seat adjustment memorization, this brand has a lot to offer the chronic back pain sufferer.
Volvo – Usually known for its safety, this brand was suggested more than any other as being unsurpassed in comfort for those with bad backs. With options such as park assist and blind spot information it will be especially attractive to those who have trouble twisting their backs.
Nissan – The Altima and the Murano were specifically singled out as being great comfort for the price. Nissan makes cars with blind spot warning and easier cornering, but has also studied the science of sitting to create its Zero Gravity seats.
These are just a few of the many options available for those who experience frequent back pain, and new features become available all the time. Pain is never easy, but car manufacturers are listening and innovating to make you as comfortable as possible.