Truck Driver back Pain Relief

Back pain relief for truck drivers is about positioning the spine to minimise compression of the lumbar spinal base

truck driver back pain relief is all about interrupting spinal compression . . . .  

With taxi and long distance truck drivers suffering low back problems at four times the national average, you people need some help. And if I can't provide hands-on, then  some useful information will be half the cure.

Step 1. in the quest for truck driver back pain relief is getting your driving posture better to start with  

Poor sitting postures of long distance drivers can be disastrous for three main reasons: 

  1. The spinal 'c' bend of slumped sitting loads the base of the spine more
  2. The sheer hours of uninterrupted driving suffocates the lumbar discs and hampers normal repair processes
  3. the vibration of the vehicle drives fluid from the lumbar discs and impairs their shock-absorbing function

C-bend sitting drives excessive amounts of fluid from the lumbar intervertebral discs and down-regulates the biosynthetic repair processes.

Perching for long periods on the bottom of the back isn't good for it. The spine is a tall willowy column resembling a streamlined concertina. It has twenty-four vertebrae stacked top to bottom, all cushioned by ingenious fibro-elastic pillows called intervertebral discs. All discs should be optimally full of fluid to provide flexibility and shock absorption to the spine 

The discs are awe-inspiring things. They not only act as springs, thrusting the vertebrae apart, but as spinal connectors gluing them together. The more vigorously they spring the segments apart the more tautly they hold them secure, creating the whippy, tensile rod that can bend over double to tie up a shoelace and spring back up straight again. 

While lumbar discs lose 20% of their discal fluid  during daylight working hours, they lose approximately 10% in the first 2 hours of sitting.

The more water a disc holds the healthier it will be and the better it will perform. When a disc loses water it shrinks and loses its bouncy 'thrust-apart' qualities. Instead, it becomes unresponsive like a piece of compressed carpet - and this leads to other more complicated spinal problems setting in. You can read in more detail here about the causes of back pain. In a nutshell, disc dehydration and disc thinning is how spinal problems get worse. The bad news is that sitting can speed everything up!

C-bend driving postures crumple the spine which loads the spinal base more.

Sitting is especially bad if you sit slumped. If your spine adopts a collapsed 'C' bend from top to bottom (similar posture though of different dynamics to squatting) your vertebrae compress together more at the front and your spine gets dry and brittle more quickly.

Ten percent of discal fluid is lost within the first two hours of sitting but the good news is that sitting with a better alignment, with the spine in an 'S' bend instead, retards the rate of spinal 'settling'. Something as simple as sitting with a relaxed lumbar hollow in your lower back, your shoulders aligned over your pelvis, can prevent the super-loading that dries the discs so quickly.

Truck driver back pain relief step one is seating that stops the spine slumping into a C-bend.

Truck and heavy machinery seats have improved markedly over recent years, with well-sprung sit-up-and-beg modern ones with robust lumbar support far superior to the older ones more like a padded bench, where drivers had no help at all to sit up. Almost horizontal steering wheels also encouraged drivers to slump.  

The angle of the seat back makes a huge difference, with just a few degrees of backward angulation helping to un-load the discs and keep an 'S' bend, not a 'C' bend. Read more here about seat angles and the load-bearing effect in the spine as the same driving principles apply with truck and car. 

Positioning a bulky pillow in the  small of the back prevents the spine slumping into a C-bend during relaxed sitting.

If you are a driver with a bad back and without a good seat, the best thing you can do is tie a bed pillow to the small of your back to keep going. This will make a huge difference. Being tied in place means it won't move around, either up or down, or go skew-whiff and slip sideways with the vibration and truck movement.

The 'tied pillow' allows the spine to relax yet still maintain its S-bend

the tie should be at the level of your forearm bent to a right-angle behind your back. make sure the pillow is right in the small of your back (not up near your shoulder blades) and then lean back over it with your upper back against the seat - and relax. in other words, let your belly go. Let it hang out! this will switch your over-active back muscle off and allow you to sit longer and more comfortably. 

Sarah Key's 'Sitting to Avoid Back Pain' video explains the biomechanics of sitting  and how you can sit pain-free with a bad back

Step 2. in the quest for truck driver back pain relief is interrupting the SPINAL compression with  squatting 

Earlier civilisations didn't sit, or certainly not as much as we do today. Instead they squatted - to parlay with mates, prepare and eat food, go to the lavatory, deliver babies - and just about anything else you care to think of. So even though they might have run around all day with a spear - which dehydrated their lumbar discs - they would squat to rest. This had the beneficial effect of pulling the spinal segments apart and sucking in fluid to plump up the discs again. Squatting is Nature's own spinal decompressor.

Spinal decompression is the most pro-active way to bring relief for truck driver back pain.  decompression can be done on the run through your driving day by squatting and then at day's end using a BackBlock. Ideally, drivers should squat at 2 hourly intervals, or more often if you are stiffening again. (I do realise ideal is rarely possible.)

To decompress by squatting hold on to the front fender and with your feet together, heels flat, knees wide apart and lean back as try to get your bottom down closer to the ground. Try to remain down there for 20-30 seconds, or as long as it takes for the back to relax and the lumbar segments to start easing apart (this can be quite uncomfortable if you have been sitting there for hours). Although your knees will complain to start, within a week or two they will love it and in no time you will have better knees too.

Step 3. using The BackBlock  is the gold standard technique for truck driver back pain relief 

as an antidote to all that sitting you really do need a session on a BackBlock at the end of a long driving stint.
You do the exercise by lying on your back on the floor with your knees bent. You then lift your bottom and slide the BackBlock under your sacrum (the hard, flat bone at the back of the pelvis) and then one at a time, straighten both legs out, letting them flop. It's as simple as that! You can read here 'Why The backBlock Works'

The poor fellow doesn't know it yet, but he needs a BackBlock!

vehicular vibration and rough roads increase the rate of fluid loss from the discs. No doubt, optimal tyre pressures help a lot here, but modern well-sprung seats also absorb vibration and help a lot with truck driver back pain relief. The modern seats are free-wheeling abd bouncy and do a great deal towards retarding the  steady impaction of the spine. 

After many hours of driving it's important that drivers never jump down from the rig. The wider and capacious the exit route from the cab the better, since this eases movement into a spine that has become compressed and brittle - and easier to jar. Ideally, go straight into a squat when you get out (see below). Similar advice applies to driving (or being a passenger) in cars. See How To Sit In A Car.

Remember, You only remain  in position on the BackBlock for one minute only (It's quite normal to feel discomfort in your back while there) but you can do several repetitions of one minute per session. After removing the BackBlock you must gently rock your knees to your chest until the discomfort in your back fades (approximately 30 seconds). Then you must do 15 reverse curl ups, bringing your knees towards your chin. If you don't do Step 2 and 3 after being on the Block you will be sore+ the next day. 

take care to place the backblock under your bottom - not under your back.
and if you have any reason to be concerned about your back you should consult your doctor beforehand.

You can treat yourself out of back pain with these 13 videos by Sarah Key

Watch Sarah explaining all about the causes of back pain, how to get out of acute pain, spinal decompression and just about everything else you need to know in this amazingly comprehensive set of 14 videos. You can read more about what's in the package here. 

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Sketch of man holding lower back in pain with product relief information using exercise

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