The University of Maryland reports that more than three million emergency room visits in the U.S. are made due to back pain. For those who spend extended hours behind the wheel, such as truck drivers, bus drivers and long-distance commuters, the following tips can help keep back pain at bay.
Know Where You Stand Before Beginning Treatment
Visiting a specialist who can evaluate your back pain in relation to your daily activities is a good place to start. While you can instigate certain pain-reducing modalities (think acupuncture and exercise therapy) without a doctor visit, it's smart to start with a thorough evaluation first. You and the specialist can carve out a plan for how and when these supports may be useful.
Laser Spine Institute has five locations across the U.S. where you can get a thorough examination and learn about your treatment options. Their specialists can act as advocates if surgery is recommended and work with other health care professionals to coordinate treatment and care. If you've already had some form of spinal surgery but it isn't helping, don't be afraid to get re-evaluated.
Visit a Licensed Acupuncturist
The National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine supports the use of acupuncture for varying types and levels of back pain. This 2,500-year-old therapy uses hair-fine sterile needles to evoke physiological pain reduction. Needles are inserted along the skin's surface to help release biochemicals that reduce pain and help you relax. Try to schedule your session the night before or directly after a long drive—doing do can help:
- Increase circulation, energy and vitality
- Reduce low back pain by releasing pressure from sitting stationary in the same position everyday
- Diminish sciatica by reducing nerve pain and alleviating inflammation
Find an acupuncturist in your area by visiting the Acufinder database.
Stretch on the Go
Take advantage of your breaks by powering up and stretching out with yoga. If you're not taking any driving breaks, it's time to start. Yoga poses that open up the entire torso, relieve low-back pressure and stretch the pelvis and legs can increase blood flow to the affected areas and help you focus less on the pain.
The pose. Before mastering yoga, start with a pose that will stretch and reduce back pain while providing whole body stability. A good one for this is the "downward dog."
- With feet shoulder-width apart, bend down forward to the floor, firmly planting hands on mat.
- You'll know you're performing the pose correctly when you feel an alleviating stretch in your low back and legs. Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds.
The breathing. Be aware of your breathing—doing so can help de-stress any situation, especially driving. More stress equals more pain, but lengthen the exhale and your flight or fight nervous system response takes a cue to calm down.