Long hours on the road – a real pain in the back!

Back pain is one of the biggest complaints in the driving industry – which isn’t surprising when you think about the amount of time drivers spend seated in the same position.

Sitting down is a necessity of the professional driver’s job, so there isn’t much that can be done about that! But there are things drivers can do to minimise the problems and Back Care Awareness Week which runs from October 4th to the 8th provides a great opportunity to take a little time and think about how you can take better care of your back.

Raising awareness

Back Care Awareness Week is organised by the BackCare charity which has been raising awareness of back health issues for 53 years with the aim of significantly reducing the burden of back and neck pain through advice, information and guidance.

Sickness absence caused by musculoskeletal disorders is costing the economy an estimated £15bn every year – one of the biggest causes of time taken off work and something affecting more than 80% of the population.

What causes back pain?

We have all had back pain at one time or another and there is no doubt that long hours out on the road are a problem – but what specifically causes back pain?

The vertebrae which make up the spinal column are separated by intervertebral discs which are full of fluid and designed to ‘cushion’ any shocks to the spine. The more fluid there is in the disc the better the cushioning, but as the disc loses fluid this cushioning becomes less and less effective leading to back ache.

One of the main causes of the disc losing fluid is sitting down, it seeps away with every passing hour that you remain seated. Another cause is constant vibration as the spine endeavours to counteract any persistent shuddering to the body.

Both these factors are prevalent in long hours on the road so it’s easy to understand why professional drivers are among the most vulnerable to lower back pain. Drivers need to be mindful of the need to sit in the correct position and take regular breaks in order to encourage this vital fluid to build up again in the disc.

Expert advice

Health, welfare and safety of drivers is something that hauliers and training providers are acutely aware of. One of the training providers we work closely with is Dulson Training, which has bases in Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrexham and provides all types of training, including HGV, PCV, towing, driver CPC, forklift, First Aid, and ADR courses. Steve Dulson said:

“All of our training courses are designed to improve both driver and road safety. Driver comfort is essential when you spend most of your time behind the wheel of a car or HGV to improve the drivers long term health and short term to decrease distraction.

“We offer courses for safe loading and coupling to trailers that ensure best practice and correct posture. A driver may be expected to sit behind the wheel for over 10 hours per day followed by unloading or loading a large amount of heavy items. Workplace injuries and the drivers health are something we are very focused on improving.”