For a seasoned truck driver, you might think the biggest issue is traffic jams, dangerous road conditions, or the truck malfunctioning. But that is not the case. The true struggle comes with back pain. This terrible health problem is a result of the extensive period of sitting behind the wheel.
Herniated disks are a real problem for truck drivers and can be a potential career-ender. Back pain is not the only problem truckers face, as neck pain usually accompanies it.
There is a way you can prevent this with correct exercise while on the road.
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The Defeating Statistics
No job is without occupational hazards, and trucking is one that has plenty. As much as 60 percent of truckers in North America said that they have, or have had health problems as a direct result of truck driving. The most common, of course, being lower back pain.
Truck driving is very demanding. Lifting, loading, unloading, strapping, and pushing needs a huge physical strain.
The absolute worst for drivers is the fact that they sit for hours. Such inactivity, coupled with maneuvering cargo, may cause horrible results.What Causes Back Pain in Truckers?
The main causes for back pain in truckers are the lack of physical activity, although other factors may contribute, including:
- Bad posture and slouching
- The constant vibration coming from the truck
- Prolonged sitting
As a result, the driver might experience one of the following:
- Neck pain – as we mentioned, neck pain comes together with back pain, as both are a result of poor posture and lack of physical activity
- Shoulder pain – this can be a result of sudden physical strains after prolonged inactivity and is a manifestation of bicep tendonitis
- Spinal compression – as the driver is sitting in a position for a prolonged period, the spinal column is under increased pressure. This leads to tightness in the lower and upper back muscles
- Sciatica – This is the worst result of truck driving, as it is often caused by a herniated disk that compresses the sciatic nerve. This leads to pain travelling from the lower back to the knee and foot.
Stay Fit and Healthy with These Exercises
Now, as you are well aware, you can’t just stop the truck and exercise–you have a strict route and deadlines to meet. Having said that, there is a way to at least give your body some workout while driving.
Exercises You Can Do from the Seat
Stretching your body once in a while is a great way to reduce tension and avoid injury down the road. Here are some stretches you can do from the driver’s seat:
- Hand stretches–this exercise can be done by any trucker, but is especially great for OTR drivers, as they have their hands on the wheel for extended periods. This may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and even arthritis. This exercise is simple – just twist your wrist in a circular motion and, with your forearm in a fixed position, pull your fingers toward your body.
- Shoulder stretches – do this whenever you are stopped (like a red light or intersection). Shrug your shoulders as high as you can and hold that position for at least 10 seconds, then release and repeat as many times as you can. This will relieve the tension that has built up from all the time you spend driving.
- Abdominal crunches – these can be done while driving, and are very simple to do. Just crunch your abs and hold them like that for a few minutes.
Exercises You Can Do While Resting
Here are a few exercises that you can do while at a truck stop or after you have finished your daily driving limit.
- Backbends – with arms placed on the hip, bend backward and hold that position for a few seconds. Do 5-10 reps. This will completely relieve the pressure that has built up in your spine
- Back stretches – while laying on your back, pull both knees to your heart and flex your head forward at the same time
- Press-up back extensions – while laying on your stomach, place your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so that your shoulders start to lift off the floor. If you can manage, put your elbows right below your shoulders and hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
- Bridging – while laying on your back, bend your knees in a position to have just your heels on the floor. Proceed to push your heels into the floor, with your pelvic muscles squeezed in, and lift your hips off the floor until it is in line with your shoulders, hips, and knees. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds. Repeat this around 10 times. Avoid overarching your back.
- Neck tilt – while sitting, tilt your chin down so it touches your chest. Hold this position for about 5 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise five times.
- Side to side neck tilt – while sitting, tilt your head toward your left shoulder. Hold this position for about 5 seconds, then return to the original position, and tilt your head to your right shoulder, hold for about 5 seconds, and return to the original position. Repeat this exercise five times.
- Neck turn – while looking straight ahead, turn your whole head to one side while keeping it untitled (the chin should remain at the same level). Do this five times for each side of your body.
- Neck stretch – while holding your body straight, stretch out your head with chin forward (effectively stretching your throat). Hold the stretched out position for about 5 seconds. Then, return to the neutral position, and stretch out your head backward as much as you can, and hold that position for about 5 seconds. Do this forward and backward stretch five times for each movement.
- Standing hamstring stretch – from a neutral standing position, put one of your legs in front of the other and bend the back knee, effectively resting your weight on the bent knee. Do this for about 5-10 seconds, and repeat it five times for each leg.
- Standing outer hip stretch – from a neutral standing position, have one leg bend in front on the other, effectively overlapping it, making a form resembling the number 4. Then, proceed to push your knee with one hand, and pull on your foot with the other hand. Repeat this exercise five times for each leg.
- Wall calf stretch – stand in front of a wall in a neutral position, and place one foot forward on the wall, with the heel on the ground and fingers higher leaning against the wall. Lean forward and rest your palms on the wall. Keep your hip, heel, and head in a straight line. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds for each side.
The following arm exercises will require a resistance band, so bear that in mind when reading them.
- Preacher Curls – loop the resistance band through the door handle of the truck. Stand away from the truck and pull the resistance band towards your chest. Focus the movement on the biceps only.
- Triceps extensions – loop the resistance band through the door handle of the truck. Stand facing away from the truck. Hold the handles of the resistance band in a position that your elbows are parallel to the ground, with your forearms going up. Pull the band forward by extending the forearms until the elbows are straight.
- Bicep curls – loop the resistance band through the door handle of the truck. Hold one handle in each hand, and have your arms extended straight in front of you. Raise your arms, focusing on the bicep, until the arms are vertical. Return slowly, and repeat.
A Few More Tips
While exercising can go a long way for your health, there are other things to consider. After all, there is no point in exercising when your whole diet consists of soda, candy, and hamburgers.
So, here are some additional tips that will help your well-being:
- Eat Healthy Snacks – we know it is tempting to just buy that Snickers bar at the gas stop, but think twice. While it is healthy to have a sugar-rich snack once in a while, it is not when your whole breakfast consists of snickers bars. So, the most obvious advice here is to keep only healthy snacks while driving.
- Eat Three Times a Day – skipping a meal almost always results in overeating later that day. This makes it both harder for your metabolism to go through the food, and it makes it very hard to keep your weight off. So eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the cravings for food will be down and so will the snacks.
Truck driving is demanding, both on a social level, and on a physical level. Follow the advice above, exercise for at least 15 minutes a day, and eat healthily and regularly and you will both minimize the risk of health problems and feel great.
As a final tip, we suggest keeping a log for your daily exercise and nutritional intake. This way, you will know whether you have a habit of eating unhealthy and you will identify what causes you to skip exercising.