Sitting for long periods at a time can cause back problems especially for people who do it repeatedly, such as long distance truck drivers. The difference between a person who drives for leisure and a person who drives for a living is that professionals are not given the luxury of taking frequent pit stops. They typically need to adhere to a tight schedule.
Spinal problems: trucking’s common injuries
In the trucking industry, most injuries sustained are not crash-related, based on a study published on Science Direct. The most common complaints are lower back pain, tightness in the shoulders and neck, and sciatica. Being confined in a small compartment with limited space for stretching and exercise is one of the main reasons for spinal injuries in long haul drivers. The study adds several risk factors that can contribute to musculoskeletal damage in truckers which include ‘loading/unloading freight, decoupling trailers, strapping down loads and ingress and egress from the cab and trailer’.
Another reason that experts suspect drivers are prone to spinal injuries is the exposure to whole-body vibrations. Studies show that being continuously subjected to vibrations in vehicles can cause micro-fractures to vertebral end plates—spongy tissues that separate intervertebral discs and vertebrae. Prolonged driving, coupled with poor posture, can cause compression and damage in the end plates, which manifest as chronic back pain especially in the lumbar region.
Meanwhile, the muscles in the thoracic and cervical regions, where the shoulder and neck muscles are located, can become tense leading to chronic pain and discomfort. To add to that, neural irritation is also a likely source of pain as evident in patients with sciatica. Sciatica is characterized by a tingling sensation to searing pain in the legs caused by nerve compression in the lower back. The condition can make it difficult to put pressure on the legs as you would if you were standing or pressing on a vehicle’s pedals.
Addressing back problems
Developing spinal problems is an occupational hazard for long haul drivers but there are ways to avoid or manage them. Number one one the list is maintaining a healthy posture. Nubax Traction previously pointed out that it helps avoid compression in the back. Before embarking on a long trip, ensure that the set up of vehicle from the seat to the height of the steering wheel is ideal for your size and shape. Make the necessary adjustments, adding a cushion if necessary, so that the natural curvature of the spine is supported.
Making time for stretching and strengthening is the second most essential thing to keeping your spine healthy. Truckers News’ list of exercises that can improve spinal mobility and stability includes core strengthening poses as well as isometric exercises for the neck. Keeping your core taut and controlled avoids excessive slouching, which we know is less than ideal. Setting aside time for these essential activities isn’t impossible for truckers with the invention of technology to optimize time management. One of the benefits of fleet tracking software is smart route planning, and an article by Verizon Connect on the subject noted that it’s vital for improving driving efficiency. The algorithm generates directions that will provide faster results to lessen time on the road. This provides drivers ample time to allow their backs to recover.
Preventative care is essential for not only improving spine health but also maintaining an employable status. However, if your back problems persist and become unbearable over time, it’s best to consult professionals who may recommend spinal adjustments and soft tissue therapy.