Back Pain and Professional Drivers
Don’t let driving be a pain in the back
Your back is vulnerable! We tend to ignore a sore back and accept it as “part of the job,” but we shouldn’t.
During the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to stay healthy. The pandemic affects us emotionally and mentally, which affects us physically. It has always been important for professional drivers to maintain physical fitness, but during this trying time, it is even more important because your physical health supports your emotional and mental wellness.
Back pain can affect anyone who sits for prolonged periods and is particularly troubling for professional drivers, especially long-haul drivers. If you have back pain, you know the issue is compounded by being unable to get up and walk around whenever you want, but there are fairly simple solutions for uncomplicated back pain (pain not associated with conditions such as a herniated disc, whiplash, arthritis, or a compression fracture).
Be proactive; before your back starts to hurt, use the heated seat option, if your vehicle has it. Leaving it set on low can help keep your muscles relaxed. Stretch before driving. It doesn’t have to take long—10 minutes may be enough—but it can be soothing. Look for stretches your body can handle—don’t get gung-ho and start with the hardest ones you find. The goal is to loosen up the muscles and improve blood flow. Start slowly by walking around to warm up; never stretch cold muscles. Stretch gently and hold stretches only to the point of tension, not pain. (“No pain, no gain” is a myth!) Yoga and Pilates are great options. Try a class when you’re able or find workouts online or on DVD if you have a portable player.
Poor posture, with shoulders hunched or slouching with your neck forward and chin pointed up will affect your back over time. Setting an hourly reminder on your (if you can turn it off hands-free) will help you remember to avoid or stop slouching. To help you sit up straight, use your seat’s built-in lumbar support or a small wedge or cushion for your lower back. A small towel, rolled up, can do the trick if the other options are not available.
Keep your back pockets empty! Sitting on a thick wallet raises your hip, contorting your spine. Sitting straight and relaxed will help you get through your day pain-free.
Although sparing the time may be difficult, taking a break every hour or so for a short walk and to repeat your stretches can help save your back. Barring that, when you’re stuck in traffic, stretching your neck, arms, and torso can help. Just be sure to secure the vehicle first!
Be aware that even the most common movements, like entering and exiting your vehicle, can strain your back. Always use the three-point system each time you enter or exit the truck cab or cargo area; maintain contact with one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot to create a stabilizing triangle. Avoid twisting the hips by keeping the torso straight and always look where you’re about to step to make sure there is no slipping hazard where you will place your feet. When you exit, face the cab.
The best way to prevent back pain is to protect your back by keeping your core strong, lifting safely, focusing on your movements, and maintaining a healthy weight. Taking steps to keep your back healthy isn’t only about relieving pain; it’s about keeping your mind free of distraction so you can make good decisions while driving.
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