Whether your muscles are getting jostled driving down the road or you’re straining them throwing tarps, there’s no shortage of ways to injure your neck and back as a truck driver. Fortunately, some of the common injuries from over-stressing can be addressed with good preventive practices and simple stretches.
Proper Driving Posture
The Cleveland Clinic defines good sitting posture as keeping your back straight, your shoulders back and your rear touching the back of your chair. Body weight should be distributed evenly between your hips. Your back should keep its normal curves.
Slouching over the wheel can contribute to back and neck pain. Avoid poking your neck forward and rounding your shoulders. Don’t keep a wallet or phone in a rear pocket while driving, because it can throw the spine out of alignment.
To improve your driving posture, you may need to adjust your seat. A custom seat is ideal for fine-tuning a position that matches your body, but you still can get good support without buying an expensive seat. At the proper seat height, your feet will rest flat on the floor when not on a pedal, and your thighs and calves should be at a 90-degree angle. If your seat lacks good lumbar support, use a rolled towel, small pillow or similar cushioning for the lower back. Some drivers find placing similar support behind the neck to be helpful.
Avoid Muscle Strain
Loading, unloading and tarping are among other on-the-job activities that can cause neck and back problems.
When lifting a low object, keep your back straight. Bend at your knees and hips, using your leg muscles, not your back, to lift. Never bend forward at your waist and use your back to lift a heavy object. To further protect your neck, avoid talking on the phone with the device pressed between your ear and shoulder for an extended period. Arrange your truck’s workspace so that anything needed while driving does not require rotating your neck.
“Text neck,” or neck pain caused by looking down at a cell phone, is a common form of neck strain. To avoid this, bring your phone to eye level when you use it.
Strengthening the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back can help reduce your risk of injury and treat problems that aren’t serious. The North American Spine Society recommends neck stretches, shoulder rolls, and other basic stretches and exercises.
Some neck and back pain can be alleviated with a cold-to-hot compress approach. The Mayfield Brain & Spine Clinic recommends the standard “ice for 48 hours, then heat” rule. That’s because while ice impedes inflammation and treats local pain, it doesn’t have the same effect after 48 hours. After that point, switch to heat, which will help increase blood flow to the affected area and relax the muscles. Don’t overuse the affected muscles as they heal.
Over-the-counter products such as anti-inflammatory pills or pain-relieving creams may provide momentary relief. If not, chronic neck and back pain may warrant a visit to a physician, orthopedist, back specialist or chiropractor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.