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18 Wheels, 23 Discs: Workplace Musculoskeletal Injuries – What Really Happens

Christmas holidays are just around the corner. Everyone is working hard; they are tired and ready for a little break. It is usually at these times, when the monotony of work sets in, that injury can occur.

Christmas holidays are just around the corner. Everyone is working hard; they are tired and ready for a little break. It is usually at these times, when the monotony of work sets in, that injury can occur.

A lot of the people who walk through my doors have had back, neck or other injuries in the past. My answer is always to look for which prior injury was never treated? If left untreated, or treated incorrectly, these injuries may stick around for as long time and rear their ugly heads when the stress is on. Most people think that because there is no pain, there is no injury.

This thinking is wrong in most cases. In this month’s column I will discuss a few types of general injuries and how they happen, and I will also discuss a few treatment options for those injuries.

The first injury is Rotator Cuff Tendonitis. It is frequently seen in individuals who work with their hands above their heads or with their arms positioned horizontally (truckers, for example). Another term for this condition is Subacromial Bursitis.

An easy self test is follow the crease from your armpit in the front up to where it meets with your shoulder muscles (deltoids), and press with one finger. If there is a sharp or intense pain in one spot, there is a good possibility that this is the condition you have. It can be confirmed if there is a feeling of decreased motion in the arm and painful motion. The best course of action is to see your health care provider, who is trained to assess, confirm and treat the injury. Chiropractic is an effective treatment for this condition in most instances. Shoulder complaints are common in a Chiropractic office and are often a result of overuse or repetitive use. In many instances though, a shoulder injury or complaint will arise as a result of an upper back/neck problem.

The upper back and neck are intimately related. They share muscles, tendons and ligaments. So everything is connected, which leads to the assumption that if something happens in one spot it’s going to affect something, somewhere else. The shoulder, neck and upper back are all connected. If you have discomfort in any of these areas, there may be repercussions. A visit to a health care provider who assesses spinal alignment and muscle balance and function can be beneficial for the treatment of a variety of conditions found in these areas.

Moving from the upper back to the middle and lower back, the emphasis on affected areas shifts from the upper extremities to the lower extremities. Chronic thoracolumbar pain seen in the workplace may be caused by work or aggravated by it, may be acute or chronic in onset, and may be confined to the back or also radiate into one or both lower limbs. The most common diagnosis is the lower back strain, which is caused by a sudden exertion that is stronger than the tissues’ tolerance.

The condition, once identified, can be treated effectively using conservative manual techniques, such as chiropractic, physical therapy and massage. Assessing and diagnosing injuries in this region can be tricky, as there are many pain sensitive structures packed into a small space, all of which can break down at some point. Referred pain is common with low back injuries as well.

So far, we have looked at a few injuries that are common to the trucking industry and for that matter any industries that involve repetitive or static positioning for many hours. I have also noted that Chiropractic, Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy can really help with these types of injuries, also ensuring that they heal correctly, which may reduce the likelihood of relapse in the future. The key to health in this case is not getting injured in the first place! (Yeah right!) The goal is to prevent injury in the first place.

Well, that would be fine, but how do you know when an injury will occur? You can’t predict this, but you can play the odds. If you work at a high risk job or in a high risk environment, then this increases your chances of injury, plain and simple. Most truckers that walk through our doors have fallen off a load at some point in their careers, and the extent to which they were injured varies greatly between individuals. So, is trucking a high risk job for injury? No, but there are some hazards of the job, which if treated as a hazard, may help avoid injury or worse. I know that you know and understand this, but it is often when things become too routine, that injuries occur, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph.

I have briefly discussed some injuries that generally occur in the industry and in the workplace. Injuries happen, but many can be avoided with vigilance by the worker. For those that do sustain injury, many treatment options exist, from full medical intervention to massage therapy. Many reports still conclude that chiropractic gets people back to work in the least amount of time without the use of drugs or surgery. It also has a proven record of prevention with regards to injury flare-ups. Injuries will always occur, but with the proper attention by both the patient and health care provider, they can be treated effectively and the patient can return to work safely and promptly.

– Dr. Marc Blackstone is a chiropractor at City Health Chiropractic & Massage located in the RoadKing Truck Stop in Calgary, Alta. Questions or comments may be directed to him at: or via telephone at 403-204-1205 or Toll-Free at 1-866-466-0026.

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