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Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 1:45 pm
by WhuGmiT
Hey there all -

So strange to be sitting out the 2019 autocross season this year after participating in last 11 consecutive seasons with you guys!
I hope you guys are having fun and slaloming fast.

I am working on getting my car ('68 Porsche 912 coupe) running again so I can join you for the 2020 AX season.
But...... there is a serious obstacle that I need to get over (aside from fixing my car). I need your help.

The years are catching up to me so I now suffer from the affects of collapsing cartilage discs in my lower back. Unfortunately, I have found that driving my low slung, relatively stiff springed 912 definitely aggravates my back.... in a very bad way. Doh! Different lumbar pillows and padding have not been helpful.

Most of the recommendations I find revolve around me not driving a low slung and stiff springed car anymore. Much to my chagrin, they have a point. My Honda Element has a much softer suspension and a seat that is much higher than my 912. The seat position in the Element allows my knees to be about level with my hips (having the knees at or below the level of the hips while sitting has proven to be important). Guess what, driving the Element does NOT usually aggravate my back even with 2+hrs of commuting each day.

What can I do?
I can't be the only person around that has a bad lower back AND wants to be able to drive a fun, low, stiff, sports car!

Being determined and stubborn, I really want to continue driving and AX'ing the 912. Soooo....
I'm hoping any of you that have experienced this conundrum and found solutions will share them.

My plan (under construction):
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Step One
Continue doing my daily stretches and pilates-ish morning routine.
- this keeps my back manageable and in check for the most part

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Step Two - Get a new driver's seat for 912
The seats in my 51 year old car are original. I'm sure I can reap some real improvement by upgrading.
The Recaro Ergomed seat is out of my league
- too big, too heavy and too expensive (~$4k).
I am looking for a manually adjustable seat (recline, lumbar support, forward/back slide, etc.) that will
- fit in the small cockpit of the 912
- has sufficient bolstering for AX'ing
- is shaped in such a way to give me the best chance of success at not aggravating my back
- the more positional adjustment points probably the better

I am willing to spend some money on this (just not $4k !!).
Any thoughts? Any recommendations?

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Step Two - Back brace
I am considering wearing a lower back brace any time I am in the 912.
There are a couple of write ups I have read from people that claim it helps.
My old thick leather weight lifting belt, which many of you have seen me wear when I swap wheel sets at AX events, would be incredibly uncomfortable for longer drives (like the 2 hours it take to get to/from Marina). So I purchased a "Mueller 255 Lumbar Support Back Brace" from Amazon. It is pretty comfortable but obviously I'll have to see how it feels using it in the 912.
Any thoughts? Concerns? Recommendations?

--- -
Thought for the future - trailer the 912
Not really feasible for me right now but it is something to consider for the future.
The idea is to minimize my seat time in the 912, Lessening the exposure my back has to the "back aggravating" 912.
For each autocross at Marina, this would save my back from 4 hours of 912 commute time.
This trailering idea is a very expensive proposition as I would need a trailer, a tow vehicle, place to put them, etc...
Obviously this is not really a solution but a pseudo work around as it does solve the real problem that the 912 hurts my back!
I used to enjoy driving my 912 to and from work a couple of times a week (which I have not done for the last couple of years because of my back). I'd sure like to be able to do this again.
What I really want is to find a way I can drive my 912 without it aggravating my stupid lower back!!

Ok guys, I open this forum thread to discussion ;)
When considering your responses to my dilemma, please don't simply say "You are screwed, sell the 912" !
I understand that ultimately it may be the reality I must face, but for now, I'd like to see if there is any way I can keep my back happy-ish and drive my 912 too!

Yikes, this has become more long winded than I had intended.
Thanks for reading this and thanks in advance for any constructive comments & suggestions you may have.
I hope to be able to get back out on the AX course with the 912 & you all soon.

Take care, be safe & go fast!

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Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:06 pm
by ddunwood
Just buy my Cayenne Turbo - AX12 baby! :) Problem solved.

Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:25 pm
by Chris Hamilton
Joe, good to see you talking about getting back on track!

I'm sure you probably already have some good support already but please feel free to shoot me a call or email if you want to talk about back exercises or rehabilitation. I spent a good amount of time learning to repair and make my lower back durable during my road to a 655lbs deadlift last year.

It doesn't look very ergonomic but I liked the Corbeau Forza in my 914 a lot and it was cheap.

Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:44 pm
by mikey
Have you looked into having your back repaired. I know there are mixed reviews on back repairs but I do know of folks that have found relief in doing so. As a back pain sufferer I do know that the exercise routine does eventually help but it takes time. I think you will benefit greatly from a seat change. I would guess any modern seat would be better than what you have. I wish I could be more helpful.

Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:46 pm
by mikey
ddunwood wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:06 pm
Just buy my Cayenne Turbo - AX12 baby! :) Problem solved.
Though, this isn't a bad idea either. That thing is super fast and you could drive it to work every once in a while for the Porsche fix you need during the week. :D

Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:02 pm
by WhuGmiT
Hey Dave, Chris & Mike -

Good to hear from you guys!

So if I understand you guys correctly, your recommendations are:
- surgery
- learn to dead lift 655lbs
- forget the 912 and buy Dave's Cayenne

I will take those suggestions under advisement... Thanks.

Unfortunately it is a degenerative condition.
I have worked with doctors and physical therapists.
For the last couple of years I have been religious about doing the daily stretch and strengthening routine I put together with a PT. It has certainly helped. I still have good and back weeks though.

The Corbeau Forza is a fixed back seat.
I think I need something with the ability to recline so I can adjust seating positions in addition to adjustable lumbar support.
The Corbeau A4 is something I had considered in the past. It reclines and optional lumbar support bladder, but the side bolstering sticks too far forward for me getting in the way of steering (there was a wrecked early 911 at Parts Heaven years ago that had an A4 in it which I sat in to check out).

In any case, I'm hoping someone will pipe in that has specifically found a seat / brace combination that addresses their own lower back problems. I'm not going to give up on my family heirloom 912 just yet!

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Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:26 pm
by KenJ
Hi Joe,

Sorry about the back. I'm guessing you're suffering more from compression than lateral forces? It also seems to me that your request for "adjustable" seating might be competing with the need to keep you from being tossed while driving (more spins anyone?) A seat with high shoulder bolster helps me a lot in that regard... I use the old adjustable Recaro SRDs, but you won't need something quite that wide. (see next sentence)

While not scientific, it might be worth the effort to create your own cushions.... much like team racing with each driver having their own "insert". Some have gone the economical method of partially filling a 4mil trash bag with expanding foam and then place it in the car and sitting in it - creating something for your own contours. You could do that for each seat back position you need to get comfortable. You might be able to create templates with those and have something made up.

I don't envy your challenge as I imagine each time you "tweak" your back, it's a painful setback. Our back issues are quite different and I got 'lucky' as my spine ultimately fused itself together (calcified)… but, it got ride of the knives! However, we can talk about hips if you'd like.

Take it easy Joe, we're pulling for you.


Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:52 am
by Chris Hamilton
WhuGmiT wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:02 pm
- learn to dead lift 655lbs

In general the back rehab comes before trying to do anything heavy with it, but I've seen people try it in the opposite order :shock: :o

I know it can really suck so I hope you can find some relief! If you want to co-drive a slow GTI some time let me know 8-)

Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:02 pm
by WhuGmiT
Hey Ken -

Thanks for writing and good hearing from you!
Sorry to hear the hips are now giving you troubles.

Interesting idea of creating my own personalized cushions.
Is there a shop around that does that?
Of course a problem may be that since my back is already bad, creating an "imprint" of my bad back may not be helpful at all!

Actually I wonder is there is a race shop around that specializes in driver ergonomics and could help with seat selection, adjustments, etc.. Do you know of any?

> If you want to co-drive a slow GTI some time let me know
Nice. Thanks Chris!

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Re: Bad Spine - recommendations: seat, etc..

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:30 pm
by WhuGmiT
Hey guys -

Does anyone know of a shop here in the bay area that specializes in driver ergonomics and seat selection?

I'm thinking part of the solution to my dilemma may be to find a seat with the following:
------------------------------------------- -
- manual height adjustment
--- set it as high as possible for every day use (not wearing helmet)
------ goal is to keep my knees at or below hip level
---- lower seat a bit for autocross if needed for headroom with helmet on
- forward/back position adjustment
- recline
- adjustable lumbar support
- seat back that tips forward for rear seat access
- must fit into smallish '68 Porsche 912
------------------------------------------- -

And once I find the right seat (for both the car and me), what local shop would you guys recommend I use to install it?

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