People suffering from back pain spend an average of 60% more on health care annually than the rest of the population. Lower-back pain is one of the most common complaints I hear from drivers, and it is among the top causes of drivers taking sick leave. Back pain causes discomfort during the day, and it can keep you awake throughout the night. Over-the-road drivers are susceptible to lower-back pain for several reasons. The job requires long periods of inactivity while maintaining the same position. These ergonomics result in a feeling of stiffness. Likewise, the constant bumping and jostling along the road on adds to the pain.
What can a driver do about back pain?
Core strength and flexibility of muscles support and control the bones in your spine; it’s that simple. The areas that drivers most often need to improve are related to weak abdominal muscles and tight hamstrings.
Changes won’t happen overnight, but if someone with back pain incorporates a walk into a daily routine, relief should be noticed. But no one should begin walking without a little preparation. Before and after the walk, people with back pain should take time to gently stretch their hamstrings. While walking, they should maintain posture by standing straight and concentrate on keeping stomach muscles (core) tight.
Stretching isn’t just something people do that automatically leads to flexibility. Like any other exercise, it must be done correctly.
First, with your feet together, breathe in and slowly raise your arms over your head for a count of four. Slowly exhale for a count of four while lowering your arms to your sides. Repeat five times.
Second, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend your knees slightly. Slowly bend at the waist and let your arms hang loosely toward the ground. NEVER BOUNCE. Breathe slowly and deeply for three breaths. Slowly straighten back up while keeping your midsection tight and your back straight. Repeat five times.
By engaging core muscles, much of the weight of your upper body is transferred, and abdominal muscles bear the burden, strengthening over time. Not only do strong abdominal muscles reduce pressure on the lower back — but building them burns more calories, too!
Another point for drivers to keep in mind is that comfort in the seat does not necessarily mean that damage to back muscles stops. Leaning back and relaxing puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. Use core muscles to absorb that pressure whenever possible.
Lose the extra load.
For people who are overweight and have back pain, back-related issues are magnified. It’s not as if those who are overweight can add an extra axle to support their bellies — all that extra weight piles the stress on their backs.
Remember, these are just guidelines. Before you start an exercise regimen, consult with a medical professional.
Bob Perry has spent nearly the past four decades on a mission to educate professional drivers and share life-changing products and services to help them live healthier lives while on the road. Recognized throughout the transportation industry, from bus drivers to over-the-road professional drivers, Bob Perry has played an important role in creating a paradigm shift helping regulatory agencies, private and public sector entities, and consumers understand the current health challenges of the professional driver. He has participated as a wellness advocate in several roundtable discussions, large audience groups and small forums as well as going “curbside” through a national truck stop tour.
Bob’s articles have been featured in The Trucker and a number of other national transportation industry publications and is the host of a weekly wellness call produced by Rolling Strong. Bob has been a regular guest on RedEye Radio and Land-Line Radio, and is often an invited guest on Sirius radio shows. He has been featured in the New York Times, Men’s Health Magazine, Drug Store News, American Road Magazine, WSJ, NPR, ABC National Radio, as well as hundreds of daily newspapers. He has appeared on television news shows across the nation, including a featured TV segment on ABC NightLine News.