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Why are upper extremity injuries common for truck drivers?

It would seem reasonable to assume that most on-the-job injuries for the 2.5 million long-haul truck drivers in this country involve the back. They are in cramped quarters for extended hours and lifting heavy loads. However, those who know what the profession entails understand why injuries to the upper extremities are common as well.

One chiropractor found that in a random study of 200 long-haul drivers receiving chiropractic treatment, 111 of them had one or more upper extremity issues. The most common ones involved pain in the shoulder and/or scapula (shoulder blade), and tingling in the hand and/or arm.

A number of movements and behaviors common to a long-haul truck driver's life lead to these upper extremity injuries. In addition to loading and unloading freight, which can cause upper extremity as well as back and other injuries, these include:

-- Raising and lowering truck hoods, which are heavy and high

-- Lowering the landing gear or support legs for the trailer, which are lowered and raised with a hand crank

-- Pulling the heavy metal pin known as the fifth wheel pin that fastens the truck's trailer to its tractor

-- Slipping while getting out of the truck and breaking the fall by grabbing onto the hand bar

-- Driving with one elbow on the window frame

-- Keeping one hand on the gearshift lever, which is vibrating

Team drivers have an added source of injury. They sleep in the narrow bunk behind the seats while their teammate is driving. This sleeping in a confined space, usually on one arm while the vehicle is bouncing (sometimes on very poor roads), can create a multitude of problems.

Many long-haul truck drivers don't have access to chiropractic and other medical care to treat their symptoms in a timely manner. Thus, they can worsen until they cause real damage.

While driving a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck is one of the most physically grueling jobs there is, that doesn't mean that drivers aren't entitled to compensation if that job causes an injury that keeps you out of work and results in medical bills. If your employer does not provide the compensation that you need or you believe that unsafe conditions caused the injury, it's always wise to seek legal guidance to help protect yourself and your family.

Source: Dynamic Chiropractic, "Upper Extremity Injuries in the Trucking Industry," Randell Dobbs and Scott Bjerkness, accessed July 12, 2015

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