As Professional Truck Drivers we spend a lot of time sitting behind the wheel, mile after mile, many times for hours on end, in order to get our freight where it needs to be. It is easy to lose track of time as the miles roll past and we rarely think about what it is doing to our bodies. I wish I would have listened to my body before it was too late.
LACK OF MOVEMENT CAN CATCH UP TO US
One morning, I woke up with excruciating pain in my right leg. It was swollen to the point that I could not fit my fingers between the leg of my shorts and my actual leg. Bending it was almost impossible, and walking was equally difficult. It took me 30 minutes to walk from the front row of the parking lot to just inside the front door. In fact, once inside I had to lean against a display and catch my breath. I had a serious problem but was too stubborn to admit it. It would go away by itself, right?
The answer to that question is NO! As I made my way back home, not only did the swelling not go away, but the pain intensified. Upon my arrival home, an ambulance was called. I was transported to the hospital, immediately admitted, and would spend the next 4 days with monitors all over me and needles poked into my arms. The oxygen tube up my nose was just an added bonus. Being informed that I had type 2 diabetes was icing on the cake (pardon the pun), but I will write more on that in a future article. The point is, I had a blood clot and it could have been avoided.
HOW DID IT GET TO THIS?
The clot ran from my ankle to my pelvis. I was extremely lucky pieces of it didn't break loose and travel into my heart or lungs. It could have been fatal. It also could have been avoided. Sitting in that drivers seat for hours on end caused the blood to pool in my leg, and then clot up. It didn't happen suddenly, but the clot built up slowly over time until the blood simply couldn't circulate properly anymore. My lack of exercise and poor diet choices only made things worse. I had brought this on myself and now I was paying the consequences.
HOW CAN THIS BE PREVENTED?
How can we as professional truck drivers keep this from happening? It is really quite simple. Get up and move. Here are some tips that may help.
Stop every couple of hours. Even if it is just to walk once or twice around your truck in a rest area, a little exercise is better than none at all and will help keep a clot from forming.
Park as far away from the truck stop entrance as you safely can. Walking into and out of the truck stop can help keep that blood flowing. Just make sure it is safe to do so. Wearing a safety vest can't hurt.
Do "sitting" exercises. Check with your doctor before doing these, especially if you suspect you may have a blood clot. The last thing you want is a clot to break loose and move. Just search "Sedentary Leg Exercises" to find the ones that work best for you.
Smoking and poor nutrition are also contributors to poor circulation. Try to quit smoking and try to eat healthier. Both of these are hard to do, but the rewards are worth it.
Compression stockings can help with circulation. Many drug stores and department stores carry a version of these. Ask your doctor if they are right for you. I wear them every day and my legs feel less fatigued and there is no swelling at the end of the day.
Lastly, take one more look at the picture above. That fashion statement doesn't work on anyone, and your family and friends don't really want to come visit you looking like that.