“Driver” Tops Spine Specialists’ List of Most Back-Breaking Jobs
“Driver” tops the list of careers that spine specialists consider most harmful to back health, according to a member survey from the North American Spine Society (NASS). Other careers on the “Top 10 Back-Breaking Jobs” list are construction worker, nursing, office worker, manual laborer, dentistry, warehouse worker, mechanic, factory worker
“Chronic back pain has long been an occupational hazard for professional truck and taxi drivers,” said Chad Patton, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and chair of the NASS Public Affairs Committee. “But with the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, tens of thousands of ‘amateur’ drivers each month are suddenly becoming professionals, sitting in their cars for extra hours, toting luggage, and feeling the pain.”
To avoid back pain and stay on the job, Patton counsels professional drivers to use 10 simple tips:
1. Treat driving like a sport—warm up your muscles by doing gentle stretches before you get into the vehicle.
2. Remove items from your back pockets. Sitting on or against a wallet or cellphone for a long period of time can throw your spine out of alignment and trigger back and leg pain.
3. Position your body for comfort and support. Adjust your seat to a 100-degree angle to prevent slouching. Make sure you can see mirrors and dashboard gauges without turning your head when it is supported by the headrest. Support your lower back’s natural curve with a pillow or rolled-up shirt or towel placed in the small of your back. Be close enough to the steering wheel that your elbows and knees are slightly bent.
4. Take a short break every 45-60 minutes to drink water, walk around to improve circulation, and gently stretch your back, neck and hip flexor muscles.
5. While driving, try to move a little in your seat—even 10 seconds of movement and gentle stretching is helpful.
6. When possible, use cruise control. Resting both feet on the floor is easier on your back and hips than constant foot pedal movement.
7. Ensure a smooth ride by choosing routes with the least amount of traffic, construction and potholes.
8. Keep your vehicle in prime condition by providing regular maintenance of shock absorbers, brakes and tires.
9. If you must handle cargo or luggage, do it safely. Use a partner, handtrucks or
forklifts to lighten the load and reduce strain on your back.
10. Eat healthy when you’re on the road. Extra pounds, particularly in the midsection, can put unnecessary strain on your back muscles.
Since many of his patients are familiar with sports, he counsels patients to “approach their job like a professional athlete prepares for a big game—do warm up exercises, strengthen your core, use appropriate equipment, maintain a healthy weight, work with your teammates, do not smoke, use proper form, and take regular breaks on the sideline.”