Neck Pain in Truck Drivers - Causes & Solutions
The neck is the most common part of the body affected by long rides, making neck pain a common complaint among truckers. Truck drivers often experience strains and discomfort in their neck as a result of sitting in a stationary position for extended periods of time. Truck drivers can spend an average of 8 or 9 hours a day driving. The muscle pain or discomfort generally comes as a result of poor posture or lack of body movement. When driving in a stationary position for hours on end, a driver’s muscles can become stiff, contributing to small aches or even stabbing pain. This pain can be short term, or it can last for years if it is not properly managed. While it is not uncommon to experience neck pain after spending a lot of time behind the wheel, it can become debilitating if not treated. If you have neck pain as a result of driving a truck for long hauls, you landed in the right place. Keep reading for some helpful tips on how to reduce discomfort and possibly prevent pain behind the wheel.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Bad Posture While Driving
One common cause of neck pain in truck drivers is bad posture while driving. Many truck drivers unintentionally have poor posture when they drive due to the limited range of motion in their truck cabs. Continuously turning your neck when changing lanes or checking for traffic can also lead to neck discomfort. When driving, make sure that your back is properly supported, you are not too close to the steering wheel, and your seat is adjusted to the appropriate height. Driving with good posture could help prevent neck pain from even starting.
Poor Mattress Quality
Another common cause of neck pain for truck drivers is an unsupportive mattress. The low-quality original equipment manufacturer, or OEM mattresses, semi-trucks are supplied with will start to sink fairly quickly over time, which can lead to the misalignment of your neck during sleep. Sleeping on an old or poorly constructed mattress can impact the overall quality of your sleep alone. If you are not getting enough rest, your body will not be able to heal itself properly after a long day of driving. Upgrading to a high-quality, supportive mattress, like a SleepDog® mattress, before an OEM mattress begins to sag or sink will aid in more comfortable sleep while also giving the benefit of proper support for the neck and spine.
A common cause of neck pain while driving in general is injury from an accident. While some neck pain is gradual, and develops over time, other pain can start suddenly. With truck driving as a profession, dealing with some type of accident is almost inevitable. Even a small accident can leave you with whiplash. Whiplash causes the tendons and ligaments in your neck to become inflamed as a result of overstretching. If you have sudden onset neck pain, an accident, even a small one, could be the cause.
Solutions for Neck Pain in Truck Drivers
Invest in a Good Quality Mattress
Investing in a high-quality, aftermarket truck mattress, such as a SleepDog® mattress, will give your neck and body the support it needs. SleepDog® mattresses are made from high quality memory foam that not only reduces motion transfer, but also contours to your body for pain relief and supportive sleep. Additionally, a more comfortable mattress will lead to better quality sleep, and allow your body to get the rest it needs. Quality pillows are also a great investment to avoid dealing with neck pain as a result of poor head and neck support.
Use a Hot Water Bottle or Heat Pack Around Your Neck
Using a warm compress, such as a hot water bottle or heat pack, can help relax and treat neck pain. Heat is beneficial for neck pain as it brings more blood to the affected area and reduces joint stiffness. Heat is particularly useful when the muscles in the neck are tight, a common sensation after long truck drives.
There are numerous stretches that can be performed to help reduce and treat neck pain. Stretching is extremely important in improving flexibility, loosening tension, and eliminating aches and pains. A strong neck will also help improve any additional upper body issues such as pain in the shoulders, arms, or upper back. Stretching the neck muscles is one of the simplest techniques to eliminate tension. Stretching throughout the day, every day, can help alleviate neck pain and keep the muscles in your neck loose.
One great neck stretch is the “Forward and Backwards Head Tilt.” The benefit of this stretch is that it can be done while sitting or standing, which makes it a great option if you start to experience pain after driving. To perform this stretch, simply do the following:
- Start with your back straight, your head over your shoulders, facing forward.
- Lower your chin towards your chest and hold it there for 15-30 seconds.
- Slowly lift your head back up to the starting position.
- Tilt your head back, lifting your chin upwards. You should be bringing the base of your skull towards the top of your spine. Hold this for 10 seconds.
- Slowly bring your head back to your starting position.
Repeat this process several times a day, or as needed.
Another great stretch for reducing neck pain is “Neck Circles.” To perform this stretch, simply do the following:
- Start with your back straight, your head over your shoulders, facing forward.
- Use your chin to draw a large circle in a clockwise motion.
- Bring your head back to the position you started in.
- Repeat the same process but use your chin to draw large circles in a counter-clockwise motion.
Repeat this stretch several times a day, or as needed. This stretch can also be done while sitting or standing, making it a great stretch to do on the road.
Medication can be helpful for chronic neck pain. If you have tried stretching, heat, and sleeping on a good mattress, pain medication can be a good option. There are many over the counter medications that are helpful for relieving pain. It is important to keep in mind that some pain medications can make people less attentive or feel more tired. While pain medication can be useful, remember that you still need to be able to drive safely. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication for pain.
Complications from Neck Pain
Neck pain may lead to a number of different symptoms, the most prevalent symptom being pain in other parts of the body. Individuals who suffer from continuous neck pain may also start to experience headaches, shoulder pain, and arm pain or numbness. Neck pain can often stimulate upper back pain and can occasionally radiate down the body and lead to lower back pain. There can be even more serious complications of neck pain, which is why it is important to understand what is causing your pain. For example, worn joints can lead to osteoarthritis in the neck, nerve compression may be the result of a herniated disk or bone spur, and other serious diseases such as arthritis, meningitis, or even cancer can cause neck pain. If you are experiencing chronic neck pain that you are not able to relieve with rest, stretching, or over the counter pain medication, we always recommend that you seek medical advice from a doctor to avoid further harm or complications.
Relieve Neck Pain with a SleepDog® Mattress
It is essential for truck drivers to have proper support in the driver’s seat and in the back of their sleeper cabin. If you don’t already use a seat cushion or sleep on an aftermarket memory foam truck mattress, we highly suggest considering it to minimize joint and muscle pain from driving. Sleeping on a poorly made mattress can cause new aches and pains on top of the discomfort from sitting in one position for an extended period of time. SleepDog® specializes in DOT approved semi truck mattresses that are American-made with contouring memory foam to help you get your best nights’ sleep on the road. Some drivers even prefer to sleep on a SleepDog® mattress at home and on the road thanks to the level of comfort and support they provide.