Doctor focuses on spinal conditions in long-haul truckers

Aug 12 2011
Spine surgeon Richard A. Kaul of New Jersey Spine and Rehabilitation (NJSR) recently announced his intention to focus on long-haul truck drivers, with a particular interest in minimally invasive spine surgery and outpatient treatments.

Truck drivers are at high risk of developing various degenerative disorders due to the stress that repetitive lifting of cargo can put on the spine and the muscles of the lower back. Truckers often learn proper lifting techniques, but may forget them in the rush to make timely deliveries.

According to NJSR, driving for prolonged periods on a regular basis also imposes strain on the back, partly because drivers cannot use their feet to support their lower body while operating the pedals of a vehicle.

The resulting instability and the continuous vibrations and position changes associated with driving can cause tension in the spine and surrounding muscles. Some research has indicated that the vibration of the body while driving can increase the load on the lower back, and driving on uneven roads can make the effects worse.

Continuous bouncing can lead to compression of the spinal discs, which in turn causes degeneration and pain in the spine and surrounding nerves. The demands of long-haul trucking can also make spinal discs bulge or herniate, which can cause pain and lead to the development of other spinal conditions.

Other effects may include facet joint syndrome, in which cartilage wears away and spinal joints become stiff and swollen. NJSR notes that facet joint syndrome can lead to reduced mobility and vertebrae rubbing together. Depending on the location of the joint, headaches, neck or back pain may result.

Truckers are also prone to spondylolisthesis, in which a vertebra slips forward due to weakened joints or a vertebral bone fracture. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, this condition causes pain when a vertebra presses on the local nerves.

Kaul noted that truckers may choose to forego invasive procedures that can take months to heal from because if they are unable to drive they cannot earn a paycheck, and being sidelined for any period of time can cause financial difficulties. This is part of the reason for his focus on minimally invasive outpatient surgeries, which typically require less recovery time.