‘Key Workers’ van drivers urged to look after their own health behind the wheel

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Delivery drivers and tradespeople listed as ‘key workers’ are being urged to look after their own health behind the wheel during the COVID-19 crisis, as on average 70% of van drivers are forced off work due to back pain each year, according to research from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Figures show that 70% of van drivers suffer from back pain and often have to take as much as three weeks off work a year to recover*. Poor seat adjustment could be to blame for triggering back issues, especially as even under normal circumstances drivers will spend up to seven hours a day in their vans.

As part of the research carried out by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, it was revealed while half of van drivers say they adjust their seat to the correct position, two-thirds are still sitting incorrectly or missing crucial steps. Among the most common mistakes were positioning the seat too close to the steering wheel and angling the seat too far back.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offer ten top tips to avoid back pain:

In the van:

  1. Height:Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as your seat will allow, and where possible try to get your hips higher than your knees. You should also adjust the thigh support if you have one to ensure you have the maximum surface of your thighs touching the seat.
  2. Pedals:You should be able to push the pedals to the floor with a bend in your knees.
  3. 110°:Bring your seat all the way up so it’s straight and then take it back until you are comfortable whilst maintaining a 110 degree angle between your back and thighs.
  4. Lumbar Support:Only if required, the lumbar support should be adjusted so you can feel it support the hollow in your back but so it’s not causing your spine to arch more than is normal for you.
  5. Head Restraint:The height and angle of your head restraint should be adjusted so you can feel the centre of the support touch the middle of the back of your head, although it does not need to be touching at all times, as long as no more than 2cm away.
  6. Steering Wheel:Once in correct seating position, bring your arm up in front of you and position the centre of the steering wheel to be in line with the fold of your wrist.
  7. Rear Mirror:Lift up your chest by five degrees and then adjust your mirrors to help stay in an upright position on long drives.

Outside the van:

  1. Regular Breaks:It is crucial you take regular rest periods or at least mini breaks within each 45-60 minutes of sitting. This allows your body to adopt a new position by standing/moving and giving your tissues a break from becoming tight in a loaded sitting position.
  2. Exercises:Each time you stop, try to find a safe spot outside the vehicle to perform 5–10 knee bends by raising your knees past 90 degrees in front of you, allowing the leg muscles to stretch a little. If you don’t have any existing foot, ankle, knee or hip issues, try performing 3-5 simple squats, bending just below a seated position that is comfortable for you to get movement into your leg muscles. When you get home, you can also perform all of these exercises before relaxing.
  3. Remedies:A warm bath or shower can help relax your muscles after a long day and while the jury is out on Epsom/magnesium salts some find them useful to help replenish the minerals used by their muscles during the day. Following that, if you still feel soreness, you can try a gel ice pack or even a bag of peas wrapped in a suitable cover and apply it in the area of soreness for 10–15 minutes.