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18 Wheels, 23 Discs: Back on the long road to improved health

Now that you have started down that road to health, it's time to take a closer look at some other strategies to obtain and maintain your health.

Now that you have started down that road to health, it’s time to take a closer look at some other strategies to obtain and maintain your health.

I have discussed various strategies in previous issues, beginning with nutrition and some simple ideas for altering your routine to create a healthier existence.

I have also discussed some basic workplace injuries and how you can try to treat them and even prevent them. In this issue, I will discuss a few stretches, exercises and ideas that you might try to incorporate into your daily routine.

February is generally a slower month in the industry and a cold month in this neck of the woods. This means more layovers, more stops and more sitting.

The converse side is that there is the possibility of increased chance of injury due to cold weather work or just slipping when walking.

The concept of creating a strong core (these are the muscles in and around the midsection of your body – yes, they are there even if you haven’t seen them in a while!) in your body will help with every aspect of your health and fitness.

To begin with, when you have a strong core you are likely in better shape than the guy or gal next to you that does not. In order to have this strength in your core, it means that you have worked at it, as most occupations do not help strengthen these areas.

It also may spell fewer injuries for you or a faster recovery time if injured, especially in the low and mid back areas.

Of course, with an injury, a healthcare professional should be consulted.

The first hurdle to overcome in this process is to find the time. It is the number one excuse people use to say why they can’t exercise. Of course this is strongly influenced by the environment in which they live, work, learn and play.

According to Health Canada, two-thirds of Canadians over the age of 15 are employed and spend, on average, 60 per cent of their waking hours at work. In the trucking industry, this average is likely higher.

The trucking industry generally does not promote fitness for its employees, and in an industry that does not forgive worker absenteeism, downtime, or decreased availability due to injury or poor health, the costs can be devastating to both the driver and the company.

For those drivers that are self-employed, you are the company, so the burden of responsibility lies with you.

A 2001 Statistics Canada report estimates that $12 billion is lost annually due to such things as decreased productivity, overtime and health-related costs – many of which are related to an unhealthy, stressed out, inactive workforce. The good news is, statistics also show that employee wellness programs and healthier work environments pay for themselves.

B.C. Hydro employees enrolled in a work-sponsored fitness program had a turnover rate of just 3.5 per cent compared with a company average of 10.3 per cent.

While a work-sponsored fitness program may be self-sponsored, there are some simple ways to begin making your health a priority, while you continue to do your work.

It can be as simple as talking to a healthcare professional /or having one come to your shop or garage to give a 30 minute health talk (find a local chiropractor, we love doing these things!) The next step is to fit those stretches, exercises or recommendations into your daily routine.

For the professional driver this means waking up 30-60 minutes earlier and starting your day off by doing some exercises and stretches, or even going for a run! I know this might be at 4 or 5 a.m. for many, but what a way to energize your day!

Many professionals of all types start their days off at the gym, myself included. I am at the gym or out for a run by 4:45 a.m., and it is routine or ‘I may not find the time.’ My workday begins at 7a.m. and does not end until 6 or 8 p.m. I know that the demands of my job are different than those of a professional driver, but the underlying concept is the same; Make time; Make it routine; Make it work for you.

Some ideas to start with might include:

Incorporate regular “cardio mini-breaks” into your day – Re-energize yourself when you stop by walking briskly around the lot a few times before you sit down to eat or rest. You might even start your day by doing this as a run! (Running shoes are light and easy to transport).

Take a short break – How did you feel the last time you sat all day compared with the day you had to stop and take a break for something?

Incorporate core stability exercises – this helps support the spine throughout the day and reduces aches and pains.

Did you know that sustained static postures (like sitting) can lead to common areas of muscle imbalances, where some muscles can become tight – target areas that are prone to developing muscle imbalances (hip flexors, hamstrings, calf muscles, chest, shoulder and neck muscles, weak upper back and shoulder blade muscles and weak abdominals. (A healthcare professional can help you determine where your deficit lies).


Hold these stretches between 10 sec. and one minute and repeat two to three times. These stretches will lengthen and relax the associated muscles.

Neck, Shoulder & Chest Stretch: Clasp your hand behind your back; Gently pull your elbows back as far as you can hold them in position; Pull the shoulder blades down your back; Drop the head forward and bring it back up to neutral. Turn your head slowly until you are looking at your right shoulder. Repeat the left side.

Hamstrings (back of the thigh) Stretch: Sit on the edge of your seat with the door open and extend the right leg out with the foot flexed (toes towards you); Lean forward (careful not to fall out) and reach for the foot; Repeat the left side.


Perform eight-12 repetitions, hold for two or four seconds and repeat two to three times for each exercise.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Sit or stand with arms out to the side and elbows bent to 90-degrees; Pinch shoulder blades together and push elbows toward back pockets; Focus on lengthening the collar bones of the chest. This exercise will strengthen the back muscles and lengthen the chest muscles.

Chair Squats: Stand up from your chair (not your seat), engage the abdominal muscles, bring the arms up to chest height; Slowly begin going down into a seated position; When the chair touches the back of the thighs, engage the buttocks, return to standing. This will strengthen the big muscles of the thigh and help with balance.

Pelvic Press: Sit all the way back in your chair; Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back into the back rest of the chair; Focus on pulling your belly button toward the backrest of the chair. This exercise will strengthen the abdominal muscles and increase back comfort.

I have related a lot of new information in this issue and I hope that the readers find it useful and begin to incorporate some of it into their routines new or old.

Live Healthier. Feel Healthier. Function Better!

– Dr. Marc Blackstone is a chiropractor at City Health Chiropractic & Massage located in the RoadKing Truck Stop in Calgary, Alberta. Send questions or comments to: or call 888-765-0099. (local: 403-301-3344). You may also view this article and others on the clinic website:

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