It's no surprise to you - driving a truck can be physically demanding. During a long haul, the cab's limited space and restrictive seating create stress for your neck, back and shoulders while bouncing over bumps and potholes for...
It’s no surprise to you – driving a truck can be physically demanding. During a long haul, the cab’s limited space and restrictive seating create stress for your neck, back and shoulders while bouncing over bumps and potholes for hours. Shoulders, in particular, carry a lot of the stress.
Although the shoulder’s ball and socket design is great for mobility, unfortunately it is also at a great risk for injury. Because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it, to stay in a normal position the shoulder must be anchored by muscles, tendons and ligaments, making it prone to repetitive motion disorders, as well as pulled or torn muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Certainly, when the socket gets slightly out of alignment, pain and injury can occur.
Long-term misalignment can cause cartilage tears, rotator cuff pinching and tears, tendonitis, bursitis, unstable shoulders, joint degeneration and scar tissue build-up, which could seriously affect your ability to work.
As a trucker, shoulder misalignment could occur when you pull the fifth wheel pin; hand-crank the landing gear; lower and raise the truck hood; slip and grab the hand bar while getting out of the truck; sleep on your side in a bouncing vehicle (if you’re a team driver); unload your truck; drive with your elbow resting on the window frame; or leave your hand resting on the vibrating gearshift lever.
Although these activities will always be a part of trucking, you can still make some changes to help keep your shoulders in shape.
First of all, check your posture while you’re driving – no slouching! Even if you’re tired, keep your back and shoulders aligned. Adjust your seat so your knees are at hip level.
Keep your hips and buttocks in the middle of the seat and as far back as possible. Be sure that your backrest supports the top and bottom of your back. Use a lumbar support.
If possible, put your armrest at a height that allows your back to relax. Adjust your steering wheel so your hands rest easily. Change your hand position frequently. Additionally, get out and stretch as often as possible.
Before unloading, warm up your shoulders. Protect your shoulders by keeping them supple and flexible with these simple stretching exercises:
Do shoulder rolls by raising your shoulders, and then rotating them back and down, making small circles and gradually working up to larger circles.
Do between 10 and 12 circles in one direction and then reverse direction. You can do these before you even get out of the truck.
Do a sideways shoulder stretch. Sit straight, then breathe in as you reach your hands over your head (if there’s enough room in your cab).
Grab your left wrist with your right hand and breathe out as you bend your body gently to the right. (You’ll feel a slight pull along your left side).
Be sure to keep your head aligned with your spine. Don’t twist your neck. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other side.
Next, try a shoulder crunch by raising your shoulders as high as you can. After holding them there for 15 seconds, let them drop while breathing out. Repeat this three or four times.
Practice an ear-to-shoulder pull. To do this, inhale while keeping your shoulders relaxed. Then, exhale as you lower your right ear to your right shoulder. If you’d like a deeper stretch, use your right hand to increase the pressure on your head.
You should feel a gentle stretch along the top of your left shoulder and into your neck.
Hold this position for 20 seconds while breathing deeply. Repeat for your other side.
If your shoulders are bothering you now, consider the following options before you do permanent damage: Try massage therapy. Deep tissue massage stretches muscles, improves range of motion, relieves pain, helps increases blood flow to the area, and promotes healing.
Massage therapy also reduces production of stress hormones. As a bonus, many health plans cover a percentage of the cost of massage therapy.
Or, apply heat or cold to relieve the pain, but not if you have circulatory or nerve problems. Choose cold to numb pain and reduce inflammation. This is especially effective if you’ve just done something that has caused the pain. Only apply an ice pack (covered with a cloth) for 20 minutes at a time because longer than that can cause frostbite.
Choose heat to increase the blood flow to relax tense muscles. Again, only use heat for 20 minutes at a time so you don’t overheat the tissue. A hot water bottle or heating pad works well.
Even better, have a warm bath or shower before stretching. Do not use heat if your muscles are inflamed. Following this advice could take a weight off your shoulders.