The most common shoulder complaint that I see in my clinic among professional truck drivers are injuries to the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. It functions to stabilize the joint by keeping it firmly within the socket during shoulder movement.
Rotator cuff injuries or tears may occur from a single event or due to repetitive strain.
I often treat rotator cuff injuries in flatbedders, due to the physical demands of the job. Tarping and securing loads is usually the cause of the injury. Rotator cuff injuries can also occur due to slips and falls.
The signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury vary. However, most people will experience a dull ache deep within the shoulder. The pain associated with the injury can also be sharp and intense if there is a significant tear.
Many patients have difficulty sleeping due to shoulder pain. In more severe rotator cuff injuries, muscle weakness and decreased ability to move the shoulder will be seen. It is recommended you seek medical attention if you experience shoulder pain that lasts more than a few weeks or you lose the ability to move your shoulder in certain ranges of motion.
If conservative treatments, such as rest, ice, and medications are not successful, steroid injections such as cortisone may be recommended. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help restore strength and flexibility to the shoulder.
For my patients that drive flatbed, I always recommend they do a light warm-up before they load or unload. Walk around your truck a few times to increase blood flow and then do some simple shoulder and arm stretches.
The worst thing you can do after driving for several hours is to jump out of your cab and begin to do physical work. Another good tip is to take breaks while working. This will give your muscles a chance to recover and reduce repetitive strain.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.