According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s latest report, the most common injury for truck drivers is a back injury, with musculoskeletal disorders accounting for 33 percent of all injury and illness in 2011. As compared to 11 days of recuperation time for workers in all careers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers were have said to have required a median of 21 days recuperating away from work.
Some of the reasons truck drivers tend to suffer from back pain include:
- Being forced into a sedentary position for long periods.
- Unloading and loading heavy items.
- Vehicle motion such as sudden stops, accelerating and decelerating, changing lanes abruptly or traveling over pot holes and other bumps in the road.
- Lack of overall fitness that can leave the muscles stiff and inflexible, and more susceptible to injury.
- A poor seat design that may include an absence of comfortable padding or improper height.
- The angle and slant of the steering wheel, creating an awkward position for the driver.
One common back disorder that can develop due to long-distance driving is foraminal stenosis. This is caused by the additional stress and pressure put on the spine from long periods of whole body vibrations which may cause the discs to weaken and break down faster than they normally would. According to Laser Spine Institute, treatment options include physical therapy, but if it is not effective enough there are minimally invasive procedures available with as much as a 96 percent patient satisfaction rate. Surgery centers are located in five cities, so truck drivers are likely to pass at least one on their routes if they’re looking for a consultation.
With so many factors contributing to back pain, the truck driver’s best bet is to reduce the risk of developing serious back issues that result in pain by considering the following tips:
Performing stretches on a daily basis is important for everyone in order to maintain a healthy back, but for truck drivers, it’s even more essential.
Taking time to stretch for just two minutes before embarking on a journey, and two minutes in the cab at each rest stop, can dramatically improve a trucker’s back condition, according to physical therapist Drew Bossen. Touching the toes or bending backwards with both hands on the hips can help loosen back muscles, while slowly moving the head from front to back, back and forth can help reduce neck pain.
Another good stretch is to place one foot on the step of the truck, stretching the back leg into a lunge position. Then, bend the front knee, holding for about 20 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
Bad posture causes the discs of the spine to gradually move out of their normal position and forces the muscles to become pulled in directions they weren’t meant to be pulled, resulting in chronic back pain. An adjustable seat helps make good posture easy to attain. The seat should be properly adjusted so the back is straight, the arms are relaxed and the knees just barely touch the seat’s edge. The body should be loose and relaxed, and the steering wheel should be within an easy arm’s reach, according to The Healthy Trucker.
Proper Exercise and Nutrition
Moving the body as frequently as possible can significantly reduce the instance of back pain. Stop every few hours to walk around, or even just to stand up helps relieve the stressed placed on the body from sitting for prolonged periods and increases circulation.
Nutrition is also important as eating right can help one achieve or maintain a healthy weight which can dramatically reduce the chance for injury, including back strain.
There is an app for almost everything these days, and that includes helpful apps truck drivers can use to stay healthy out on the road such as the Fast Food Calorie Counter, which helps people make better, healthier food choices. MyFitnessPal is a great tool to access a wide range of exercises as well as to keep track of calorie intake and calories burned.