Back Behind the Wheel: How to Prevent Back Pain

by Dr. Jerry Singh

The cost of back pain is a significant expense for both professional drivers and the companies they work for.

Minimizing the occurrence of back pain should be a goal and a high priority.

Most people do not realize that being in pain not only affects them but it can potentially affect everything they do and everyone around them.

A professional driver who is in pain can become preoccupied with the pain he or she is experiencing, which can decrease his or her ability to focus on the road.

A driver in pain will shift in his or her seat constantly, try to stretch (while driving), take over the counter/prescription medication (which may have side effects) to try and get some relief from the constant nagging pain. Sleeping is difficult, which leads to fatigue, stress and frustration.

At this point safety becomes an issue.

A healthy driver who is not in pain is more comfortable, less stressed, happier, more relaxed and better able to focus on the road.

Healthy drivers will be more productive because they can drive for longer periods, thereby increasing their miles.

They are also less likely to miss work because of it.

There are many things that you can do to be proactive about your health, which will prevent and limit back pain.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, regular chiropractic care and massage therapy to promote good spinal health are all helpful.

Sleep is also important, so make sure you get enough of it.

Previously, we described how proactively managing truckers’ injuries saves significant money. Ultimately, preventing injuries must be the goal.

One company that consistently practices this philosophy is J.D. Smith and Sons Ltd. (JDS), a cartage company based in Concord, Ont.

We asked Joe Libralesso, JDS human resource director, how JDS’s proactive Early and Safe Return to Work (ESRTW) approach works for them.

Libralesso described ESRTW as a core philosophy of injury management at JDS. Practiced in conjunction with WSIB guidelines, ESRTW financially benefits both workers and their company.

Workers rehabilitate from injuries much more quickly and the company reduces WSIB costs.

Morally, the company shows it cares for the injured worker and legally, the company abides by Section 40 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, which applies to workers and employers.

The JDS criteria for returning an injured worker to modified duties under ESRTW include: determining the worker’s functional abilities (FA), ensuring the worker has proper skills to perform the work offered safely, and ensuring the work contributes to the worker’s earnings while being meaningful and dignified.

Libralesso stresses that modified duties are initiated only if the following is established: that there’s a diagnosed worker impairment, a prognosis is available from the health-care provider, a written description of FA is available and the worker’s aptitude for modified duties is known.

ESRTW works best when the worker, employer, health care provider, and WSIB staff all communicate willingly and frequently.

JDS has designed various modified work tasks for injured workers that are tailor made to the specific needs of workers.

JDS communicates an exact description of modified duties to the health care provider who in turn writes an FA form describing limitations within the modified duty framework.

The health care provider gauges progress and updates the FA form accordingly.

The worker is gradually allowed to resume more regular duties until pre-injury status is achieved.

Practically the entire JDS staff is involved in the process.

There’s no shame for injured drivers handling dispatch or office duties.

All managers, clerical staff and drivers are committed and involved in the ESRTW system.

Company staff help to design, arrange and implement modified duties for various scenarios.

The key to success is a high level of organization, co-operation, communication, and continuous review and follow-up.

Everyone in JDS knows the role they play to make it all work.

Libralesso gives the following reasons for adopting ESRTW:

The trucking industry has a shortage of skilled workers. Therefore, when a driver or warehouse worker is injured and can’t do regular duties it’s costly and time-consuming to train replacements;

Modified duties benefit workers with minimal disruption of earnings and better morale;

The company realizes reduced costs and lower WSIB premiums;

Properly managed and implemented ESRTW programs are a win/win situation for everyone involved.

I would like to thank Joe Libralesso of J.D. Smith and Sons Ltd. and Dr. Brian Kleinberg for the contributions they made to this month’s Truck News column.

If you have any questions regarding ESRTW, please contact Dr. Kleinberg at 905-738-6303.

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at or 888-252-7327.

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