Staying resolute

| July 08, 2008

What’s your next health goal? I want to keep running and improving my time and distance.

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Ask the Experts
Health Question of the Month:

I am a 55-year-old driver for a household moving company. I do a lot of heavy lifting and am experiencing joint and lower back pain. I have some arthritis as well. What do you suggest I do to help my aches and pains?
- Earl from Omaha, Neb.

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.

As we age, many of us experience joint pain and arthritis. But weight can play a big role, too. Are you carrying excess baggage? If so, you’re not alone: 86 percent of drivers are overweight. And that means you’re asking your bones and joints to support more than they bargained for.

There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so if you can trim 500 calories a day, you’ll lose a pound each week. Have one sandwich instead of two at lunch. Change out a piece of cake for a piece of fruit for dessert. Have fat-free yogurt instead of a milk shake for a snack. Go with diet soda instead of high-test. Slow down when you eat. It takes the brain about 15 minutes to realize your mouth and stomach have been hard at work. Just putting the fork down between bites may help you moderate your timing and eat less. Most people need about 1,800-2,200 calories a day unless their physical activity is high. Keep a food diary to see how much you’re eating.

Many people with arthritis are also deficient in important nutrients like calcium and vitamins D and C. Choose no-fat/low-fat dairy and green veggies like broccoli to add calcium. Milk and fatty fish like salmon are great sources of vitamin D. For vitamin C, start with fruits and veggies. Start today. Your bones and joints will be saying thanks for years to come.

Ronald Rush, M.D., is a family care physician with Highway Health Care and clinical director of Med- Xpress Health Care in Texarkana, Texas.

Pain is a complex subject and the needs of a driver are special when it comes to medication and therapy choice. Body aches and joint pains are two of the most common complaints seen by a physician. Most pains can be broken down into two groups: inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Inflammatory arthritis is often genetic and includes the well-known rheumatoid variety. To treat it, you will initially use common over-the-counter drugs such as naproxen or ibuprofen. As these cease to work or fail, you will need more advanced therapy. Most people, however, have non-inflammatory arthritis. This is better known as “wear and tear” arthritis. Your starting point is over-the-counter acetaminophen, with occasional use of drugs like naproxen. Beyond this, you will need to see your physician for a complete evaluation of your specific problem.

Always remember, though, that prevention is more valuable than treatment. Keep in good shape, exercise, use good lifting techniques and never overwork your muscles. Begin any new exercise program slowly, gradually increasing time, distance or weights. Gentle stretching can help keep joints flexible. Once you have destroyed the cushioning material in your joints or torn a muscle, the road to a full recovery is long.

Linda Dunn is a fitness expert from Tuscaloosa, Ala.

At age 55 there may be some wear and tear on your spine, and it is important to lift safely and protect your back. There are several types of arthritis, and mild exercise is usually recommended for most types. Since your occupation requires heavy lifting, it is important to strengthen your abdominals and back muscles. If possible, try to find a personal trainer or exercise instructor that can show you some appropriate exercises to build strength in your core muscles (abs, back, inner and outer thighs). Simple push-ups and sit-ups are a start. Also, get out and walk (build up to a good pace, 15 minutes a mile) for 20-30 minutes. That will increase your stamina for your daily activities and improve your heart health. If walking on land is not possible due to discomfort in your joints, consider swimming, water aerobics, or walking laps in a pool. The movement in the water is easier with arthritis because the joints and spine are cushioned and supported by the water’s buoyancy.

Finally, try to be sure you lift with the “back safety guidelines” that OSHA recommends for your occupation. Your employer should offer this information at your request. If lower back pain is a problem and continues, please consider seeing your physician.

The advice and opinions expressed herein are only general suggestions. Before you undertake any course of action, you should consult your doctor to determine what steps are right for you. Randall-Reilly Publishing, Truckers News and the experts consulted for these articles do not endorse, warrant or promote in any way the products of any of our sponsors.

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