It’s not a secret: truckers sit a lot. All that time spent behind the wheel can cause the spine, neck and shoulders to experience stress and become sore and stiff. Left unaddressed, this soreness can lead to more serious long term health issues. Plus, it’s just plain uncomfortable.
The North American Spine Society (NASS) specializes in spine health, and they have a collection of exercises they recommend to prevent and alleviate spine-related pain. These exercises can easily be done inside the space of a trucker’s cab, and the weights recommended can be replaced with practical, on hand items such as cans.
NASS recommends the following eight exercises for addressing back pain:
1. Transverse Core Strengthening
This strengthens the muscles that cross from your ribs across your waist and helps support you in an upright position. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and toes turned in very slightly. Hold a ball directly in front of you. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and feet flat on the floor; rotate from side to side. Repeat 10 times. Check with your physician; if you are able to use progressively heavier balls, you will experience more benefit from this exercise.
2. Sagittal Core Strengthening
You can stretch and strengthen the low back muscles that help you stand and lift. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, about 18″ in front of a wall, with your back to the wall. Tighten your abdominal muscles, then reach through your legs to touch the wall, keeping hips and knees bent. Use your hips to push your body back to a standing position, then extend your arms and reach over your head and slightly backward. Repeat 10 times.
3. Abdominal Crunch
Draw abdominal wall inward, exhale as you lift chest area. This can be done with quick short movements, or slow full movements. Repeat 10-15 times, to fatigue.
4. Abdominal Exercise
Lay on your back with both knees bent. Draw abdominal wall in. Maintaining abdominal wall drawn in, extend one leg. If your abdominal wall lift ups or your back arches, your leg is too close to the floor. Return leg and extend other leg. Repeat to fatigue. Repeat 10-15 times at a slow and controlled pace.
5. Resistance Training
Resistance training is exercise done against something providing resistance. It can be done with weights, hand-held or training machines, or using isometric techniques. Common household items, like small canned goods, can be used instead of hand weights. Ask your doctor or physical therapist to prescribe an exercise program that matches your abilities.
6. Neck Press
This is an isometric exercise to strengthen your neck. Press your palm against your forehead, then use your neck muscles to push against your palm. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat six times. Then press your palm against your temple and use your neck muscles to push each side against your palm, holding for 10 seconds and repeating six times on each side. Then cup both hands behind your neck muscles to press back into your hands. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat six times.
7. Side Bridge
On your side with knees bent at 90 degrees, prop up on your elbow, elongate neck away from shoulder and draw your abdominal wall in. Continue to breathe. Lift hips away from your supporting surface while keeping your head, shoulders and hips in a straight line. Hold for 10 seconds working toward 30 seconds. Repeat 1-5 times or to fatigue.
Prop up onto elbows and knees. Keep shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line. Hold 10 seconds, working toward 30 seconds. Repeat five times.
For more exercise guidance on how to prevent and relieve back pain, visit NASS here.