Sitting for multiple hours a day is bad for anyone’s health. But as a truck driver, you are not just sitting; you’re actively driving and on the road for all this time.
Whether it is deadlines or inaccessibility, you cannot get up and move around or go home for a healthy home-cooked meal at any time you would like. It is factors like these that add up, negatively impacting your health in numerous ways.
While you may already be aware of how driving a truck for countless miles affects your health and wellness in some aspects, it is essential to be aware of as many as possible and be mindful that one health issue can pave the way for more.
Informing yourself of these common truck driver health issues is the first step to becoming more proactive about leading a healthier life on and off the road:
Eye Fatigue and Strain
Eyes can tire from overuse, and just like any muscle in the body, they need a chance to rest.
Most experience and understand eye strain in terms of looking at screens such as computers or phones, but having to keep your eyes peeled and focused for long periods is detrimental to truck drivers’ eye health.
Not to mention the bright lights at night or early mornings. Eye strain can lead to sore and tired eyes and headaches. More severe cases can lead to light sensitivity and blurred vision.
If your eyes are feeling dry, remember to blink regularly and keep eye drops on hand, which will help lubricate your eyes. Keep in mind some of these drops can blur your vision for a couple of seconds, so be mindful of that when you choose to use them.
In terms of more preventative care and getting to potential roots of your eye strain, be sure your sunglasses are polarized and ensure no direct vents are blowing hot or cold air into your eyes, which will dry them out.
Smoking in your cab can also dry out your eyes, along with numerous other health concerns. If you have to light up, it’s best to wait until you’re at a rest stop or break if possible.
Obesity for truck drivers is linked to poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
Obesity can lead to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. All of these can affect your ability to maintain your job, and in some cases, can be fatal.
Diabetes is a particular concern because the spikes in blood sugar from high carbohydrate and high sugar foods often sold at rest stops can affect eyesight and sleep, which are already common driver health issues.
Some ways to incorporate better eating include swapping out unhealthy snacks for fruits and high-protein snacks (tip: most gas stations sell bananas and hard-boiled eggs) and replacing sodas and sugary energy drinks with flavored water, seltzer, or vitamin water. Eating smaller portions will help manage weight, too, along with maintaining energy and blood sugar levels.
It is all about finding a few that work for you when it comes to exercises; it just depends on the setting. Try walking a mile when you are at a stop. You can also do many simple exercises with dumbbells to maintain muscle mass when you are either in or waiting by your vehicle.
More than half of truck drivers on the road today are smokers, and smoking causes some of the same problems as obesity, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But smoking also leads to lung cancer, which is deadly and hard to catch in the early stages.
Many truck drivers overlook the impact of inhaling toxic, carcinogenic chemicals such as diesel fumes when they are busy and focused on other important matters. Unfortunately, that factor is difficult to control, but those who smoke also increase their lung cancer risk.
The first obvious answer is to quit smoking; this is not an easy task if you have been smoking for some time, but resources are always available if you need them.
Apart from not smoking, try to avoid breathing in the fumes when exposed to diesel, do not idle your trucks indoors, and regularly ensure your ventilation systems and exhaust fans are working correctly.
Leg Pain and Sciatica
Sitting for long periods is inevitable in your job, and you may experience low energy levels and leg pain if your blood is not circulating well. Poor circulation puts you at risk for blood clots, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis, where deep blood clots typically form in your thigh or lower leg.
One simple way to maintain blood circulation in your legs is by tapping your feet, such as to the beat of a song.
Sciatica is another common health issue for truck drivers, and it can lead to excruciating pain through the back of your leg that starts at the lower back and buttocks. This pain is one sign that your sciatic nerve is compressed, irritated, or inflamed.
One easy stretch to prevent this is by placing your ankle on your opposite leg’s thigh and holding for 10 seconds before switching sides. You can even do this in your driver’s seat (when you are not driving, that is). This will stretch your piriformis muscle, a small muscle in your buttock that presses against the sciatic nerve.
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes one’s breathing to repeatedly stop and start while asleep, and, outside of genetics, can be caused by obesity and smoking.
Sleep apnea is a particularly dangerous health condition for truck drivers because it can cause slower reaction times while awake. Not only that, but sleep apnea can prevent you from doing your job altogether.
You may recall having to be tested for this sleep apnea as a part of your physical because, in some cases, truck drivers are not allowed to work with this condition. To help reduce your risk of sleep apnea, keep your weight under control, and keep smoking to a minimum.
Making Your Health a Priority
There is a certain level of interconnectedness when it comes to your health, and unfortunately, these physical health issues impact your mental health.
All of this is in addition to the stress and other factors you experience every single day in your demanding job as a truck driver. Maybe it is not the worst thing that one health issue typically contributes to another, though.
You deserve to make your health a priority, the same way that Kelly’s makes getting your moneymaker back on the road a priority. Our team of trained and certified technicians, second-to-none parts library, and in-house fabrication shop ensure that your truck gets the attention it needs as efficiently as possible.
For regular maintenance, mechanical problems, and custom work, take it to Kelly’s today!