Back behind the wheel: Trucking’s common injuries

by Dr. Jerry Singh

Do you have headaches, low back pain, neck pain, shoulder and sciatica type pain? If you do, you are not alone.

I would estimate that close to 80 per cent of all patients who are professional drivers complain they suffer from one of the above. Constant vibration, sitting for long periods, lifting, pushing, pulling and inactivity (lack of stretching/strengthening) are all factors that lead to these types of conditions. In the past we have talked about these conditions, but a review is in order.

Low back pain is probably one of the most common injuries seen in trucking.

Drivers often complain of stiffness, dull achy pain and stabbing/shooting pains in their low back. Most of them have been in pain for several weeks, months or even years!

The majority of low back pain is due to biomechanical problems (improper alignment/movement) associated with your spine. Abnormal loading of the spine, poor posture and constant vibration can irritate the nerves, muscle, discs and joints of the spine. The end result is poor spinal mechanics that lead to spinal joint dysfunction, which leads to pain.

Neck pain/headaches are also very common in the trucking industry. Stress and poor posture causes the majority of the pain.

The muscles in this area become very tight and tender to the touch. As a result, proper spinal mechanics is affected in the thoracic and cervical spine, which leads to pain and discomfort, similar to the low back.

Tension headaches are common and due to the muscles at the base of your skull being tight. This “pinches” on the nerves and refers pain into your head.

Most of the shoulder injuries that I see are due to overuse. Rotator cuff and bicep tendonitis occur most frequently, due to repetitious movements of the shoulder. Strapping, cranking, shifting are common activities that can irritate these tendons.

If you experience sharp local pain in the shoulder that increases with certain movements, you may have tendonitis.

Sciatica pain travels down from your “butt” or low back to your foot or knee. A herniated disc in your back, which is compressing the sciatic nerve, can cause it.

When this nerve is being compressed, this is when you experience the “shooting” pain down your leg.

Another common area, where this nerve can be entrapped is in the gluteal (butt) area.

The piriformis muscle that is located in you gluteal region can become hypertonic (tight) which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Although sciatica is a benign condition, it can be painful and annoying.

Determining where the nerve is being entrapped is very important to determining the course of treatment.

The treatment for mechanical low back pain, neck, headaches and sciatica pain involves stretching, strengthening, spinal adjustments and soft tissue therapy. Muscles, nerves, joints and the skeletal system are all interrelated. Poor posture = tight muscles = poor spinal mechanics = neural irritation = pain.

The goal of treatment is to correct what is causing the pain. It is important to address all causes of the injury to ensure that the problem is corrected, which will guarantee that the pain will be alleviated. However, due to the nature of your job it is important to continually, stretch, strengthen, get adjusted etc. on a regular basis to prevent your injuries from returning. Preventative care is essential if you want to decrease your risk of injury from re occurring. Remember pain is not a good indication of your health.

Realize that you can be very sick, and have no pain. It is important to take care of your self (exercise, stretch, eat healthily…) all the time, and not when you are in pain. If you only take care of yourself when you feel or are in pain, you will never truly be healthy.

The treatment of any tendonitis initially involves ice therapy. Reducing inflammation is critical in the first 24-48 hours in order to speed up the healing process. Once the inflammation has decreased, gentle stretching, soft tissue therapy and other modalities may be introduced.

I see so many drivers with chronic back pain that can be managed quite effectively.

Most aches and pains will disappear within a month. Any longer and it is probably a good idea to get it looked at, by your health professional. The sooner you get it looked at, the easier it is to treat.

Take care of yourself today, to guarantee a healthier tomorrow. If you have any questions, talk to your health professional or e-mail me. Until next month take care and drive safely.

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1 888 252-7327, or e-mail

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  • My name is Fredrick I drive long haul otr and I just went through severe back pain a week ago and took a week off I just started back to work .I catches the pain in the upper center of my back below my neck a real nagging pain that won’t go away but starts from my lower back I spent so much on cushions Wich is aggravating cause I love what I do and I live comfy,so how can I resolve the problems with this pain