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Driver Lifestyles

Things Not Often Taught to New Drivers: Part 4

By Sandy Long
Posted Jan 19th 2015 2:06AM

Truckers are susceptible to many illnesses, injuries and conditions that go along with the job beyond what are talked about as occupational health hazards. There are some simple things you can do to deal with the issue or prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Skin

Many of us are overweight causing bellies to fold over or in women breasts to sag. Areas where skin touches skin are subject to skin yeast infections especially in warmer weather. These can become so bad, that you will have an odor even if you shower daily. A simple solution is medicated powder. Sprinkle those folds of skin, avoiding genital areas, liberally each day after cleaning and drying the area thoroughly with the medicated powder. It may take doing another sprinkling during your day too. However, if the irritation becomes so severe that open sores occur, then a trip to the doctor for prescription medication will be in order.

Vinyl seats can cause ‘trucker’s butt’. Tiny hairs become ingrown and can cause cysts, pimples and sores. If you have vinyl seats, invest in a seat cover or a sheepskin to sit on. Change positions often to relieve pressure, and get out of the seat when you can, or at least lift up a little. Again, medicated powder will help too.

Another issue with vinyl seats for women is that the heat from them can cause vaginal yeast infections. It never hurts to have over the counter medication with you for these; they rarely sell it in truck stops.

Because of our diet of fast foods and high fat foods, acne can become a problem in some adults. Drinking plenty of water and keeping your skin clean will help counteract the problem. Witch-hazel is an antiseptic and has been used for millennia to help with skin issues. You can make your own cleansing pads for your face by putting some heavy-duty paper towels or cotton balls in a container with a tight lid and adding just enough witch hazel to dampen them. Clean your face every time you stop; for a special summer time refresher, keep the container in your cooler.

Shoulders, Necks and Backs

Between stress, bouncing and sitting in the same position for hours holding the wheel, necks and backs take a beating. There are some things you can do to counteract the soreness. These tips come from a physical therapist. Tip your head down and pull your shoulders back for a second or two every little bit; this stretches the neck tendons and helps release tension in the shoulders. Turn your head completely to look in the mirrors every hour, does not take a second to do. Every hour or so, reach with one hand for the roof, repeat with other arm, this too only needs to be done for a second; this stretches the back and shoulder muscles. Sit as straight as your seat will allow you to and try the lumbar support feature to see if it helps.

The worst thing you can do to your back, knees and hips is to jump out of the back of the trailer, box or off of the truck or dock. Get down with as little impact to your body as possible, even if it is not pretty doing so.

Breathing

Because we sit, and many of us slump forward a little while driving, our lungs do not expand as well as they would if we were standing or sitting upright. From a respiratory therapist: Whenever you get out of the truck, take a step or two away into fresh air. Raise both arms as high as you can comfortably and take in several deep breaths, this allows the lungs to fully expand and can help prevent bronchial issues and pneumonia; it is also good to breathe deeply in fresh air to oxygenate your body.

If you get out of breath when walking even a little, it may be that you do not know how to breathe properly. To take in the most oxygen one should breathe in thru the nose and slowly breathe out thru one’s mouth, do this when walking, before bed or doing any other physical activity. If this condition is too bad, get to a doctor, there are many very bad things that can affect your breathing.

Elbows, Hands and Wrists

Carpal Tunnel is an occupational health hazard as is arthritis in hands and fingers. Carpal tunnel is caused by using the wrist in the same position for too long. To counteract this, wristbands may be used to help support the wrist in a more normal position. One should also flex the wrist backwards, forwards and rotate it often during the day; this will help prevent the damage. However, if it does come on, and the pain gets too great, surgery may be required.

Believe it or not, what is called tennis elbow is also a hazard to truckers. Tennis elbow is a form of bursitis, where the bursa sac in the joint becomes inflamed. Also, elbows can be damaged from resting it on the window edge or arm rest too much and this can also cause bursitis. The main problem though in doing so can cause ulna nerve neuropathy, cause loss of use in the fingers, and hand on that arm. To prevent it, make sure that whatever you rest your elbow on is well padded and do not rest it very long with the point of the elbow pressing down or at all if it can be avoided.

Our hands take a beating. Not only do they lead the way in our work, but also we clutch the wheel tightly causing damage to the fingers and small joints in the hand itself. Change your grip on the steering wheel often, using one hand harder than the other then the opposite. When you safely can, flex the fingers of one hand then the other; pretend you are typing in the air or make a fist then stretch your fingers out. Use properly fitting gloves for work that might injure your hands or fingers, treat any injuries immediately.

There are many over the counter remedies for many of the common health issues truck drivers face. Make sure they are non-drowsy or you will be violation of the regulations. Like witch hazel, I have found that many of the older or natural substances work the best for cleansing, soreness and pain. However, that is up to you, some of the new rubs and products work well too. It is always good to have analgesics and even wrist braces or stretch bandages in the truck to have on hand when needed if injured. Of course, a good first aid kit too is necessary, injuries usually happen when there is not help around.

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