First off, if you’re currently in a lot of pain you need to consult with a doctor. The following methods are preventative only.
Whether you are a truck driver or not, most people have probably experienced that nagging, awful ache at the base of the back. It never seems to go away and sitting in the same constrained position for long periods of time only makes it worse. The ache can also be an effect of heavy lifting or strained movements, which are daily occurrences for most truck drivers.
These factors make truck drivers the perfect candidates for the pain. Eighty percent of Americans suffer from back pain, and truckers make up a massive amount of the group. It should come as no surprise that a recent study revealed truck driving as one of the top five occupations to cause back pain. The popular health issue is costing the trucking industry millions of dollars and leading many truckers to give up on their careers.
So what’s a strained trucker to do? Drew Bossen, a physical therapist and founder of Atlas Ergonomics in Grand Haven, Michigan says using just a few simple methods can dramatically improve a trucker’s back condition.
Making Stretching a Habit
Doing routine stretches every day isn’t just for gymnasts and track stars. Any person at any age or physical shape can benefit from doing stretches. The consistent, vibrating movements that truck drivers experience on a daily basis causes the muscles to tighten over time. These important muscles have to be loosened every day to prevent serious injury.
Bossen suggests two minutes of stretching before you begin the trucking trip and two minutes after. One of the best moves is to put one foot on the step of the truck and stretch the back leg in the lunge position. Bend the front knee and hold for about 20 seconds then repeat with the other leg.
Truckers can loosen up back muscles by touching their toes or bending backwards with both hands on their hips. Is the pain starting to feel like neck strain? Slowly moving the head back and forth and front to back can help ease the ache that gets worse with time.
Use Legs For Heavy Lifting
One of the reasons truck drivers are so vulnerable to back injuries is because of the long periods of sitting followed closely by intense heavy lifting. The bending forward movement makes the disc between spinal joints stick out which makes it very easy for a serious injury to occur.
Bossen encourages drivers to use a “lock and load” method. Locking the elbows close to the body makes it difficult to rely just on the arms for strength, which protects the spine. He says over 99 percent of back injuries are a result of not using this technique.
Adjust the Seat
Not only does making this change help relieve pain, it makes truckers less likely to get tired behind the wheel. Generally, truckers who are around 6 feet tall fit best in the driver’s seat. Those who are shorter or taller will need to make minor adjustments. Bad posture is what slowly moves back discs out of their normal position. A seat with the right adjustments makes good posture easy. The back of the knee should barely touch the seat edge. This will remove any possibility of pressure that can reduce blood flow. The steering wheel should be an easy reach. Any sort of stretch to hold the wheel causes strain. Moving the mirrors in positions that don’t require much turning and twisting will also make a big difference.
Eat Nutritious Foods
The last thing Bossen says to keep in mind is keeping a healthy diet. Truckers who are overweight have a much harder time keeping back pain under control than healthy ones. Bad nutrition makes the healing process nearly impossible. Having lean snacks on-board like trail mix, fruit, and beef jerky will go a long way. Staying hydrated is also a factor. Truckers should down at least one glass of water for every hour behind the wheel.
Consistently following these simple guidelines can turn a draining truck driving career into an enjoyable experience.
Last Edit: 3/27/19