Car recommendation for someone with sciatica

Hi. I’m hoping someone here can help.

I am having trouble finding a car that I can drive any distance that will not cause my sciatica (lower back, butt, and leg pain) to become intolerable. I need a car that has the front of the drivers seat that is LOWER (or at least not higher) than the back (110 degrees angle between the body and upper leg would be ideal). Also, the height of the seat needs to be at least 14 inches above the floor mats. [I’ve tried seat cushions, but that makes the visibility terrible, and hurts my UPPER back, because the lumbar support is off, and the stearing wheel is too far away.]

I’ve spent days going from one dealer to the next, but I really need to test drive each car several days to make sure I will be able to drive it comfortably. Something I’d rather not do, even if feasible.

Also, I’d really like the car/truck to be fuel efficient, but at this point, I’m not that picky.

Thanks for any help you can provide.


If you need to drive a car a few days to be sure I’d suggest renting whatever cars seem right to you. None of us can make specific recommendations based on your condition – it’s up to you. New car dealers will not let you “test drive” a car for that long. Maybe a used car dealer would if you paid a daily rental fee.

Good luck!


The best seats come in virtually any Volvo. Yet, old Volvos are very pricey to keep on the road. Currently Volvo is running a promotion on its new cars that includes all service and all maintenance including wear items like brake pads. If you can afford a new car this is a great promotion. Just remember to sell the Volvo as soon as the free maintenance and warranty period end. The XC60 or XC70 should meet your criteria.

Definitely not a Toyota Camry:)
Look into small SUVs. Be careful, you really have to test drive one for a long time to be sure. Look and see if you can rent a model that you like and take a long trip in it before you commit.

Aside from the need to take an extended test-drive in any model that you are considering, you need to make sure that the car in question has power-operated seats.

An “8-way” power-operated seat will allow you to adjust the tilt of the seat cushion, so that the front is lower than the back, and it will allow you to elevate the seat so that it is high enough from the floor of the car. The newer power seats also allow you to adjust the inclination of the seat back in tiny increments via a switch and they have power-operated lumbar support.

All of this means that you can’t even consider low-end models. Only the top trim level of a particular car model is likely to have these seats. As long as you can pay for a top-trim model, you should be able to find a power-operated seat that meets your needs.

I Wonder If A “New” Beetle Would Be Comfortable For You? They Have A Unique Tall Aspect.
Beetles often prove comfortable for people with a variety of conditions that make other autos unacceptable.

Would it help to have hand controls for gas and brake so that your feet could be placed flat on the floor? Some people have these adaptations for various reasons.

I don’t have any information to back-up the suggestions. I’m just throwing out ideas.


I also have severe problems with sciatica that are, thankfully, slowly being resolved by PT. Regardless of the car that I drive, I find that using a lumbar roll is a real life saver. Some cars have supposed “lumbar supports” built in but these don’t do a heck of a lot for me.

I have several McKenzie lumbar rolls around and just keep one permanently affixed to my car seat. If all else fails, a rolled towel works basically the same. I just wedge it in my lower back, just above my hips or belt line.

But my experience is that all car seats are bad, just some are worse than others. I’d rather have a stiff economy car seat than an overly soft luxury seat.

8-way power seats are definitely the say to go, as VDCdriver mentioned. These will probably be the top-of-the-line trim, but definitely worth it. Do you also need something you just slide into, or can you sid down and stand without problem? If squatting to get in is not a problem, cars are on the list. Otherwise you need a truck. Small SUVs allow you to slide straight into the seat. We have friends with degenerative back problems and arthritic knees. Both of them found the Honda CR-V to be a comfortable ride. Their problems are different, but their experience might help you. Other small SUVs are the Chevy Equinox, Toyota Rav4, Nissan Rogue, and Ford Edge, to name a few.

My wife and I gave up on cars a long time ago. We find the seating position much more comfortable in the vehicles we currently drive–a 2003 Toyota 4Runner and a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander. Our daughter-in-law suffers from severe lower back problems. She had surgery last spring, but the discomfort is still there. She is able to comfortably drive their 2000 Ford Windstar minivan, but can’t drive her 2005 Ford Mustang because of the seating position.

You’ve been given a good suggestion in renting a vehicle and driving it some distance before you purchase the same make and model. I have to try a vehicle on for fit just as I try on a pair of shoes.

We once owned a 1993 Oldmobile 88. It was a wonderful car except for the seats. The seats were so uncomfortable on trips that we would drive our 1990 Ford Aerostar minivan instead. This Oldsmobile had power seats, but neither I nor my wife could find a comfortable position. On the other hand, the 2006 Chevrolet Uplander does not have a power seat, but I am comfortable driving it long distances.

Problems with back pain while driving is not only a function of adequate support, but one of motion as well. I have followed the progress for several years of research and product development in this area and see that the Ford Taurus 2010 offers this feature. There maybe other models…
Adv exerp… "Comfort was a focus, too, and for 2010 the Taurus is available with multi-contour seats for the driver and front passenger, complete with 6-way power lumbar support and a rolling pattern massage feature. The bottom cushion of these industry-exclusive seats included Active Motion, which provides subtle continuous movement to help the driver avoid back pain.

I think it’s worth looking into for anyone with chronic back pain willing to spend the money for this option. This is not a gimmick but a worthwhile feature for addressing back pain while in a prolong seated position.
Taurus happens to be a very good automobile as well.
Good luck in your search.

That Sounds Like A Good One. I’d Check With Neighboring Dealers And Find One With A New Car Department That Has A Taurus Demo With This Feature.

I’d explain the situation and try and get them to give me the car for a couple of days or at least for a couple of trips of some distance.

Earlier advice about renting a car to try would work, also.


You have no choice but to go back repeatedly and do test drives.

I suffer from degenerative disc disease and all its ramifications, of which sciatica is one. I’ve learned that there is no answer that’s correct for everyone. Everyone is different.

In 2005 I bought a new Corolla, which I thought would work. It had upright seating, which I thought was good. After only two months I had to trade it. It was crippling me.

I traded it for my 2005 Scion tC. That was the only vehicle I could drive for long distances (and I do) without pain. Getting in and out takes a bit of technique, but it’s worth it. I lost $2500 in that trade, but it was worth every penny.

Seats with all sorts of mechanical trickery don’t seem to work for me either. Either a seat is comfortable or it isn’t. But try everything. They may work for you.

Sincere best.

“tsm” is so right about back problems and their variations. One cause of sciatica is Piriformis Syndrome which occurs when the piriformis muscle compresses the sciatic nerve as it leaves the buttock. It’s very treatable and easily diagnosed by a competent PT or Orthopedic surgeon who specializes in low back pain.

One thing that most back pain does have in common is the cause of the pain and the implications of the seated position. The back muscles in there attempt to aid support to degenerative, ruptured and bulging discs, generate most of the non referred pain down the leg. Seating w/o motion exaserbates the problem.

That’s where the “active motion” while seated comes in. Work by Mckenzie and his static exercise program has gone a long way helping back pain sufferers as well.
One thing you can take away from his work and “active motion” is, to continually adjust, every 10 minutes or so, a power/manual lumbar support and seat position while driving, a poor man’s active motion if you will. The so called ideal seating position for you becomes less so w/o motion. This works even w/o chronic back problems if you a have a particular reason not to make stops and walk while driving distances.

Hopefully, move research like this finds it’s way to the automobile seat so most of our back problems will be “behind us”.