One of the most common causes of lower back pain in professional truck drivers that I encounter in my clinic is lumbar spine disc herniations. In order to understand this type of injury, it is a good idea to review the anatomy of a spinal disc. Let’s get started. I always tell my patients that a disc is built similarly to a jelly donut. It has a softer, jelly-like center surrounded by layers of a tougher exterior fibers. A herniated disc occurs when some of the jelly pushes out though a tear in the outer fibers.
In most cases, disc herniations are due to everyday wear and tear on the disc called disc degeneration. As part of the normal aging process, spinal discs tend to lose their elasticity due to decreased water content. This in turn makes the disc more prone to tearing or rupturing under stress. Although some disc herniations are caused by a single catastrophic event such as a fall, the vast majority occur gradually.
There are several risk factors for disc herniation. The first of which is excess body weight. This causes increased compression and stress on the spinal disc. Secondly, physical demanding occupations such as construction may increase your risk. In the case of the professional truck driver, it is the prolonged hours in a seated position that puts stress on the disc. Finally, some people are genetically predisposed to developing a herniated disc.
The symptoms associated with a disc herniation largely depend on the location of the injury. The lower back is the most common location for a disc herniation to occur. However, they can occur in the mid back and neck on rare occasions. Lower back disc herniations generally cause pain and stiffness in the low back and buttocks region. If a nerve is compressed by the disc, herniation pain may radiate in the leg and foot. Similarly, pain may radiate into the arm and hand if the disc herniation is in the neck. Numbing and tingling in the upper and lower limbs are also a commonly reported symptom of disc herniations. In more severe cases, muscle weakness may be experienced in the areas supplied by the affected nerves. It is important to note that not all disc herniations are symptomatic. In some instances, individuals have disc herniation without knowing it.
It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you have a herniated disc. Your doctor or health professional will usually be able to diagnose a disc herniation by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination. During the examination, your doctor will check your reflexes, muscle strength and your sense of touch. If necessary, your doctor may recommend more sophisticated tests such as MRI or CT scans to better visualize the affected disc. These tests will allow your doctor to determine the severity of the herniation as well as whether it is contacting a spinal nerve. In addition, a nerve conduction test may be performed to assess the level and location of nerve injury.
The good news is that most disc herniations resolve within a few weeks with conservation treatment, which usually consists of rest and inflation control with over the counter medications such as ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant and pain medication. If the disc herniation does not resolve within a few weeks, physical therapy may be recommended. In rare cases, surgery is required to fix a herniated disc. The most common type of surgery involves a surgeon removing the small portion of disc that is protruding. Patients tend to recover from this type of surgery quite well.
As I always say, prevention is the best treatment. As far as discs are concerned, maintaining good spinal flexibility and strength is the key component. This can be accomplished by performing a regular stretching and strengthening exercise routine. To add to this, utilizing proper lifting techniques that focus on lifting with the legs and not the back are very important.
Keep these simple tips in mind and you will be well on your way to healthy pain free spine.
Until next time, drive safely!
Toronto Hydro joined GFL Excavating and the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) at an event last month to remind dump truck drivers about the dangers of hitting overhead powerlines.
Dump trucks are the number one cause of powerline contact in the construction industry and the biggest risk happens when unloading. Given the height of the bucket, if the job site is close to powerlines, the metal can make contact and become a direct conductor of electricity. Trucks that have their boxes raised can also take down wires and — in some instances — hydro poles.
Safety experts from Toronto Hydro and the ESA helped to hand out safety stickers to drivers as they left the work site. Drivers were asked to commit to working safely around powerlines.
Areas like Toronto can pose an increased risk, as there are a large amount of wires in a congested area. And Toronto is currently a hot spot for dump trucks due to the large amount of excavation happening as a result of unprecedented growth in the city.
• There are more than 15,000 kilometres of overhead wires in Toronto • GFL Excavating is one of the largest excavating company operating in Toronto.
Dr Christopher H. Singh Chiropractor, runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024 E.mail: email@example.com
REPRESENTATIVES FROM TORONTO HYDRO, ELECTRICAL SAFETY AUTHORITY AND GFL EXCAVATING SPOKE TO DUMP TRUCK DRIVERS IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO ABOUT POWERLINE SAFETY.