Aug 21, 2012



In part one of this series, we discussed Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), what they are, and why they affect the trucking industry with such regularity.  Now we hear from yoga teacher and author, Teri Leigh, on how we can help prevent these injuries and achieve back pain relief for truck drivers while on the road.

As a trucker, you subject your body to long periods of sitting in a vibrating vehicle, and then when you get your load to its destination, you are often called upon to perform extremely strenuous activities.  Musculoskeletal Disorders are a common result of these extreme conditions, but can be easily prevented with some regular and consistent stretches combined with some simple breathing techniques and active meditation practices.

You don’t need to find time to attend a yoga or stretching class.  The trick is to do these stretches several times a day, such as every single time you get out of your truck. You will feel immediate results from the very first stretch you do, and if you apply these techniques for several days or weeks, you will experience significant improvements over time.

The Forward Fold relieves tight back mucles

Tim demonstrates a proper forward fold.

1.    Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your feet parallel to each other, toes pointing straight forward.
2.    Bend your knees to place your belly on your thighs and let your head and arms dangle towards the ground.  (note – the old, grade school law of bending over to touch your toes is NOT the goal here, keep your knees bent).
3.    Take five deep breaths; using your legs to support you, let your back, neck, and shoulders completely relax.
4.    Test yourself; see if you can do this pose the whole time your rig is re-fueling (in those states that allow you to lock the fuel handle and not hold it). How many deep breaths does it offer you?  Each deep breath is one more worry, stress, strain, and injury dropped.

1.    While sitting for long durations, the muscles in your legs weaken, so this pose reminds your legs of their strength and reminds you to “lift with the legs not the back”.
2.    Essentially bringing your head upside down helps you drain stressful thoughts from your drive out of your head and clear your mind for the next task.
3.    The relaxation of your back and shoulders helps reverse the effects of upright compression on your lumbar spine and soften tension that develops in your neck and shoulders.

The Standing Upside Down L offers back pain relief for truck drivers

Barry shows how the Upside-Down L is done.

1.    Grab a horizontal step or bar on your truck that is roughly the height between your heart and your waist.
2.    Walk you feet backwards while holding the bar until your body forms the shape of an upside down L.
3.    Look down at the ground to keep your neck straight.
4.    Use your leg muscles to push your butt back.
5.    Grip the bar to pull your head towards the truck.
6.    Take five deep breaths.

1.    Pulling on the bar while simultaneously pushing back with your butt elongates your spine and serves to pull each vertebrae apart relieving tension and compression.
2.    Pulling on the bar will stretch the muscles of your arms and shoulders that have constricted from hours of hunching forward to hold the steering wheel.
3.    Putting the weight of your body back into your legs reminds you to “use you legs to lift, not your back” and strengthens the muscles of your legs.

Knee Raises are important for flexibility

Karol performs a knee raise.

1.    Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your feet parallel to each other, toes pointing straight forward.
2.    Engage all the muscles of your right leg and shift all your weight into your right leg as you stand up as tall as you can.
3.    Lift your left foot to the highest step of your truck as you can. Hold your knee in your left hand and lean into your upper leg. This will stretch your hips and butt.
4.    Hold for five deep breaths.
5.    Switch legs.
6.    Hold for five deep breaths.

1.    After long hours of sitting and vibration, over time, balance may be compromised.  This exercise helps you remember your legs underneath you and how to use them both independently from each other and together.
2.    Wakes up the muscles of your legs after long hours of non-use.
3.    The compression of your leg toward your belly presses on your colon and supports your digestive system. (this is a great stretch to help with constipation).

The following exercises can be done in your cab while you are driving.

The One Breath Chest Pop – Stop

Try this simple exercise every time you come to a stop sign.

1.    Push both of your feet into the brake and come to a stop.
2.    Bring both your hands to 12 o’clock on your steering wheel.
3.    Exhale and round your upper back as much as possible and look down.


Barry shows us how to stretch our shoulder muscles with the one-breath chest pop-stop.

4.    On the inhale, bring your hand to 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock on your steering wheel.
5.    Sit up as tall as you can and push your chest forward like you are trying to push your heart out the windshield and look up.
6.    Return to normal seated position and continue to breath deep.


1.    Stretches muscles of your neck and shoulders that tend to tense up with stress and mental anxiety.
2.    Provides a full, deep breath and opens your airways.
3.    Ensures you don’t get pulled over for ‘rolling stops’
4.    Reminds you to take a moment to stop before rushing into anything.
5.    Helps you slow down the fast pace of life and actually get things done more effectively.

In-Passing Meditation

Meditation and Deep-Breathing is an excellent way to relieve stress.  Try this every time you go to pass another vehicle on the highway and notice the stress and anxiety melt away from your life.

1.    Sit up tall, pushing your butt deeper into the seat and slightly pulling your middle back and shoulders off the seat.  Aim your head towards the ceiling of your cab.
2.    Breathe out deeply as you put on your turn signal.
3.    Breathe in deeply as you initiate the lane change.
4.    Count your breaths, four deep counts out and four deep counts in, as you pass.
5.    Breathe out deeply before you put on your turn signal to return to the right lane.
6.    Breathe in deeply as you initiate the lane change.
7.    Resume normal breathing and normal posture.

1.    Brings awareness and clarity to your surroundings, providing for safer passing and lane changes.
2.    Increases lung capacity.
3.    Provides focus and intention to your actions.

Note – try increasing the length of your breaths by increasing the number of counts proportionate to the length of vehicle you are passing.  For example:  4 counts for cars, 6 counts for sixteen wheelers, 8 counts for double load rigs.

Edited to add: For more information on managing chronic pain, read this truck driver’s story about meditation.

Teri Leigh road-trips around the country teaching yoga workshops and training yoga instructors. Having worked with thousands of bodies she has developed a system of understanding the different types of stress held in the different parts of the body and how to relieve that stress. Having shared the road with truckers on cross-country trips several times a year for the last five years, she has a special understanding of the stress related to driving the open road and the importance of achieving back pain relief for truck drivers. You can find out more about Teri Leigh by visiting her website at

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