We've all heard about the challenges truckers face, from long hours on the road to navigating unpredictable traffic—but a silent and often chronic issue many truckers grapple with is back pain.
NOTE: This blog post is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as medical advice. If you have chronic back pain, consult a qualified physician or chiropractor.
An Introduction to Back Pain Issues & Truckers
According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain, and a significant number of truckers are reportedly in that group.
“According to one small study, 59% of truck drivers experience low back pain. So, why do so many truck drivers suffer from chronic pain? Mix long hours in the driver's seat with a body part designed to be in motion, and you have the perfect recipe for pain.”—Nebraska Spine Hospital.
However, truckers cannot just take the day off or swallow some painkillers and “keep on trucking.” in most cases, even prescribed medications are not to be used while driving.
What causes this chronic issue? It's a mix of the profession's nature and external stressors. Truckers spend long hours sitting, often with incorrect posture, leading to strain on their lower back. The lack of movement combined with constant vibrations from the road exacerbates this pain. Moreover, tight schedules and irregular sleep patterns, both common in the trucking industry, are significant contributors to this debilitating issue.
Prevention Techniques & Tips for Truckers
Awareness is the first step, but prevention is the key.
Truckers can make some straightforward changes to mitigate the risk of losing driving hours to chronic back pain.
Commercial drivers should consider ergonomic adjustments for the truck seat. Modern trucks often have seats designed for long-term comfort, but it is crucial to ensure they are correctly adjusted to the individual trucker's requirements. The sleeping cabin is another area where small changes can make a big difference. For instance, try using a supportive mattress or ergonomic pillows.
However, the most crucial aspect is movement. Truckers should incorporate regular stretching techniques into their daily routine, targeting the lower back and spine. Simple stretches can alleviate tension and improve flexibility. Furthermore, taking periodic breaks, not just for rest but to move around and exercise, can play a pivotal role in preventing back pain.
Pulling over and staying seated to take a break won’t do any good. Get out and stretch, do a walk around and check the cargo, grab a coffee or healthy snack, and get back on the road. You’ll relieve stress, and your 30-minute uninterrupted break will meet the DOT FMCSA HOS rule requirement.
5 Steps to Managing Existing Back Pain
For those truckers already experiencing back pain, the road to relief requires multiple strategies.
Here are five strategies that can help:
#1—Consultation and Over-the-Counter Remedies: Always consult a physician before using any medications. They might recommend specific over-the-counter remedies for alleviating pain that won’t affect your driving ability or periodic urinalysis.
#2—Hot/Cold Packs: These age-old remedies are simple and effective. Alternating between hot and cold packs can reduce inflammation and soothe the pain.
#3—Massaging Seat Attachments: Technology comes to the rescue with seat attachments that offer periodic massages, ensuring the back muscles remain relaxed during long drives.
#4—Chiropractic Care: Regular sessions with a chiropractor can work wonders. They can address spinal misalignments, often the root cause of chronic back pain. While on the subject, don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket while driving. It could force you to sit crooked.
#5—Periodic Stretching: Even during drives, taking short breaks to perform stretches can keep the back in good shape, ensuring the pain doesn't flare up.
The Role of Mental Health & Well-Being
We often underestimate the connection between our mental and physical well-being.
Stress and anxiety can manifest physically, particularly as back pain. For truckers, the mental pressure of their job can directly impact their spinal health. Recognizing and addressing mental stressors are just as crucial as physical interventions.
Be sure to get adequate sleep during off-duty periods, practice relaxation techniques, and engage in mindfulness practices. These strategies will help alleviate back pain and enhance the truckers' overall quality of life.
Contact Bigger & Harman When You Need Assistance with Commercial Traffic Violations
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The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.
The HDT Trucking Info article, 5 Ways Trucking Fleets Can Help Drivers with Back Pain.
The ACA Hands Down Better article, Back Pain Facts and Statistics.