Back behind the wheel: Stretch just for the health of it
April 1, 2006
Sitting in your truck for most of the day is not good for your back. This is a long known fact in the trucking industry. All you have to do is look around you and see how many of your friends have bac...
Sitting in your truck for most of the day is not good for your back. This is a long known fact in the trucking industry. All you have to do is look around you and see how many of your friends have back pain.
Approximately 80-90 per cent of professional drivers will have back pain or some sort of musculoskeletal condition.
Why is this? Simply put, your body is not designed to sit for long periods of time. Not only are you sitting for an extended period of time, but the truck is constantly vibrating as it rolls down the road. Add in lack of exercise, poor diet, lack of sleep with a whole lot of stress and voila – you have the perfect recipe for back pain.
So what can you do about this problem? Quitting your job is not an option for most. So, it is time to be responsible for your health, and start being proactive about it. If you want to drive pain-free and guarantee that you will be able to drive for many years to come, you better start exercising, eating right, sleeping properly and managing your stress more effectively.
Here are some basic suggestions to help you get started. Exercising is very important and can include stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular activities like walking. Ideally, doing a bit of everything is the best, but let’s not get carried away. Let’s start off with stretching.
Stretching is easy to do and you can do it anywhere – so there are no excuses! When a muscle is tight, it is not as flexible or easy to move. These tight muscles decrease the range of motion or flexibility of the joint. This decrease in joint motion will increase your risk of injury. Stretching exercises aim to reduce this muscle tension by increasing flexibility. There is an inverse relationship between flexibility and the rate of injury. The less flexible you are the more likely you are going to injure yourself. Whereas, the more flexible you are, the less likely you are going to hurt yourself. Increasing your flexibility is easy to do. By doing stretches on a daily basis you will see a significant improvement within weeks.
You can stretch basically any muscle in the body. You just have to know how. For truckers, muscles in your back, neck and legs are the ones you should concentrate on. Before doing any stretches, make sure that your muscles are warmed up and ready to go. Ideally, if you can walk around your truck two or three times before stretching, this will ensure that your muscles are warmed up properly. Each stretch you do must be held for 20 seconds. Remember that when you are doing these stretches, that each movement is slow and controlled. No bouncing. This may lead to injury.
The neck and low back are two areas that commonly cause problems for most truck drivers. Tight neck and back muscles can lead to many problems such as neck/back pain, headaches, sciatica, numbness in the arms and many other conditions. It is important to stretch these muscles to prevent your aches and pains from occurring.
Here are a couple of simple stretches that you can do. For your neck, using your left hand slowly reach over your head and contact the right side of your head (just above your ear). Gently, pull your head over to the left (your left ear should be getting closer to your left shoulder) and feel the stretch on the right side of your neck. Make sure you don’t pull it too far, just until you feel a stretch. If you are experiencing any type of pain, you are going too far, relax and let up a bit. Then repeat for the other side.
For your low back, lie on your bed or floor and curl your knees up to your chest. That’s it! This will stretch all the muscles in your low back. How easy is that? Another stretch you can do that will benefit both your low back and legs is a hamstring (back of leg) stretch. It is also very simple, just put your leg on a stair, box, anything and slowly bend over. Keep your back and leg straight and try to reach/touch your toes. It will be difficult at first, but I guarantee you, if you do it on a regular basis, touching your toes will be no problem in a month or two.
Do these stretches every day. It probably takes less than 15 minutes a day. Do three sets per side and hold it for 20 seconds (very important). Improving your flexibility is very easy to do, and it will help decrease your chance of having any type of back pain. If you are already experiencing back pain, make sure you visit your health professional before you start any stretching or exercising program. Until next month, drive safely!
– Dr. Christopher Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 888-252-7327, or email TCC@transcanadachiropractic.com