Chiropractor Dr. Alexander Jimenez of Injury Medical and Chiropractic Clinic focuses on long-haul truck drivers and non-invasive spinal treatments. Truck drivers are at a much higher risk of developing degenerative spinal disorders from the stress that constant driving and repetitive lifting can place on the spinal muscles of the lower back.
Driving a huge truck for eight to ten hours every day/night means the person sits in a stationary position for a long time. The muscles, joints, and ligaments tend to become stiff, and proper blood circulation is affected over time. Ailments can last for weeks, even up to several years if drivers don’t take time to focus on their health and find the right treatment.
Teams are in a truck that never stops. Even sleeping in the bunk, these drivers are subject to constant vibration and bouncing as the truck moves. Roads that are poorly maintained can cause impact trauma to both the driver and the person in the bunk. Various factors can cause musculoskeletal pain like:
- Awkward sitting posture/s
- Constant body vibration
- Extended sitting
- Lifting and loading
- Repetitive motions
- Strained muscles, nerves, discs, and joints
- Improper mechanics
- No exercise
- Improper Diet
Having limited mobility can lead to structural problems like pain in the back, hip, knee, shoulder, arms, and legs. This is compounded by the fact that prescription medications are the norm for these issues and can be dangerous.
These individuals are taught proper lifting techniques but with time forget to follow them during the rush to make the delivery/s on time. Driving for extended periods regularly places added strain on the back. This is due in part because these individuals can’t use their feet to support the lower part of their bodies while working the pedals of the truck.
The continuous instability, vibrations, and positional changes that come with long-haul driving can cause tension in the spine and surrounding muscles in the area. Research has shown that vibration of the body while driving increases the load on the lower back and driving on roads that are not maintained can exacerbate the condition.
The continuous bouncing can lead to spinal disc compression, which in turn causes degeneration of pain in the spine and nerves. This continuous strenuous routine can lead to herniated/bulging discs, which can cause pain and lead to the development of other spinal conditions like sciatica. Improper alignment of the spine can lead to dysfunction and pain in one or several areas of the body. Other conditions that could develop include:
- Facet joint syndrome – the cartilage wears away making the spinal joints stiff and swollen. This syndrome can lead to reduced mobility.
- Vertebrae rubbing together
- Spinal compression from sitting in a single position for a long time places pressure on the spinal column. As the spinal column compresses, it causes tightness in the lower and upper back muscles.
- Sciatica is a combination of symptoms and pain that travel from the lower back to the knee and even into the foot. Usually, caused by a herniated disc that compresses the sciatic nerve, it can cause shooting electrical pain down the leg. Drivers with sciatica can also have tight gluteal muscles that place pressure on the nerve.
- Neck pain from tight and tender muscles can affect the middle back and cervical/neck area of the spine causing soreness.
- Tension headaches begin with the muscles at the base of the skull. When these muscles are tight, they can pinch the nerves, beginning a headache.
- Shoulder pain can be caused by overuse when loading, along with rotator cuff injuries and bicep tendonitis. An inflamed bicep can cause inflammation and pain in the shoulder.
Preventable and Treatable
Prevention and proper treatment are key. Here are a few simple ways to improve the drive:
- Better seating to reduce vibration
- Correct sitting posture
- Chiropractic/physical therapy
- Proper diet
- Ice therapy
- Proper sleep support
The seats that are standard in a truck do not offer proper support for a driver’s back, shoulders, neck, and legs. A seat pad for extra comfort or a memory foam seat with a massage base can relax the muscles. For quick lumbar support roll up a pillow, towel, or t-shirt and place it behind the lower back.
An ergonomic truck seat helps fight the discomfort and awkward positions, that result in positive posture. A proper seat will force the back into its healthy arch. Driving with less strain helps:
- Boost circulation
- Distribute the body weight evenly
- Helps drivers operate longer
- Reduces the vibrations running through the body
These long-haul drivers can choose to bypass invasive procedures that can take months to heal. This is because the inability to drive means they don’t earn a check. And being taken out of a driving job for any period can cause financial difficulties.
Chiropractic provides long-haul truck drivers with a non-invasive, drug-free way to treat injuries, manage conditions, and relieve pain. Regular chiropractic can help correct postural habits that expose the body to injury or move the body and the spine out of alignment. It can identify emerging issues before they become a severe condition.
Larger truck stops offer drivers access to medical and chiropractic services allowing them to get treatment when they need it. Long haul drivers can be out for weeks and may not be able to get their regular adjustments. But it is still a good idea to have a regular chiropractor at home so you can stay healthy and on the road.
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The information herein on "Spinal Conditions That Affect Long-Haul Truck Drivers" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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