Our way of life owes a great deal to those who keep us supplied with items we need in our daily life. This blog is dedicated to all of the hard working truckers who keep our civilization going. Long distance truck driving challenges the human body in many ways. This profession involves long work hours without extra time for fitness or recreation. There is minimal variation of movement ability: prolonged seated posture, minimal room to stretch in order to counteract the seated position. Drivers also often have to shift activity dramatically by moving from a prolonged seated posture to unloading cargo at a destination site which many strain an already exhausted spine. Vibrational effects from the vehicle may also contribute to fatigue, poor posture and general wear and tear on the body.
There are many strategies that can be done to minimize the physical stresses associated with truck driving:
- Avoid “wallet palsy”. Some drivers can experience pressure on the sciatic nerve in the leg when the prolonged pressure of sitting on a wallet presses into the buttocks of that side of the body. The leg may go numb or have a burning, pins and needles sensation. To avoid this, store your wallet elsewhere during a long drive to avoid this compression syndrome.
- Neuropathy like symptoms in legs/feet. Drivers can experience numbness in their feet and legs during driving due to lack of movement. The fixed seated position can influence circulation issues. Consider using a lumbar support (a towel rolled up behind your low back, a small pillow, or a commercially made lumbar roll to maintain your low back curvature while seated). Adjust seat depth if possible to allow for more movement space. Complete periodic leg exercise while driving. See exercise examples at the end of this blog.
- Evaluate your driver’s seat to minimize vibrational forces (springs added to bottom of seat, recline seat slightly to reduce pressure on vertebral discs, add padding to seat surface to absorb these forces).
- To avoid the body stress of shifting directly from prolonged sitting to lifting and unloading cargo at a destination site, walk completely around the truck two times before unloading begins. This can help to reset posture, and get legs warmed up for lifting.
- Truckers often work in wide temperature and humidity variances which can stress the body. Energy to complete simple tasks is more labored in temperature extremes. If you work with refrigerated cargo, try to minimize the stress from transitioning from warm to cold by dressing in layers and wearing gloves when possible.
- Tanker drivers may experience a unique form of horizontal vibration when stopping or turning the truck due to fluid shift “back wash” or “wave effect” on the driver. Keep your neck strong and maintain good posture with the use of proper exercises – see below.
- Keep yourself hydrated by using a water bottle frequently throughout your work day. Proper hydration combats fatigue. Try to squeeze in any extra activity when you can. If you have stopped to use a restroom or to eat, dedicate 5-10 minutes to walk at the site if you can safely. These mini breaks even in your time crunched schedule can add up to establish good long term health for you.
Below is a fantastic blog with lots of good suggestions for truck drivers (click on the picture of the exercise equipment to get to it) and some great video links (click on the Watch on YouTube button at bottom left of screen – not on arrow)
Exercises: Neck Isometrics
To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your weight should be slightly forward so that you’re balanced evenly on your buttocks. Relax your shoulders and keep your head level. Using a chair with arms may help you keep your balance.
- Press your palm against your forehead. Resist with your neck muscles. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 5 times.
- Do the exercise again, pressing on the side of your head. Repeat 5 times. Switch sides.
- Do the exercise again, pressing on the back of your head. Repeat 5 times.
For your safety, check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
Other material to acknowledge for this blog:
- Onley, Claire L., “Back in The Driver’s Seat”, Advance for Physical Therapists. October 19, 1992; pg 8-9.
- Senior, Rob, “Helping Truck Drivers Avoid Common Postural Problems”, Advance for Physical Therapists, March 17, 2003; pg 9-10.