What is Drivers Knee & How to Fix It

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Have you ever felt knee pain after driving for several hours? It starts out as an ache, then turns into a sharp, unrelenting stabbing pain, and by the time you stop and get out to stretch your legs, it’s nearly unbearable. And if you have to make that same drive day after day, that temporary discomfort may take on a more permanent and irritating presence known as drivers knee. Below, we’ll walk you through some ways to fix this issue and stay healthy as a truck driver.

What is Drivers Knee?

Drivers knee is known by many names, such as gas pedal knee, trucker’s knee, and jumper’s knee. From a physiological standpoint, the effects on your knee are similar to what occurs with tennis elbow or writer's cramp. In medical language, this type of knee pain is attributed to a condition called patellar tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon connecting the shin to the knee.

Causes of Drivers Knee

Drivers knee is a repetitive use injury caused by pressing the gas, brake, or clutch with bad positioning of the foot, causing strain on the tendon connecting to the knee. As with other repetitive use injuries such as rotator cuff tears and carpal tunnel syndrome, if drivers knee is left untreated, the problem can get worse. What starts as patellar tendonitis may progress to a condition known as chondromalacia patella, a deterioration of the cartilage in your knee that leads to even more pain and the potential for mobility loss.

How to Relieve Knee Pain While Driving

infographic showing how to relieve knee pain from driving
If you are suffering from persistent or worsening knee pain caused by driving it is important to consult your doctor or physician to avoid risking a more serious injury.

These stretches and exercises can help alleviate the temporary pain caused by drivers knee and the demands of life as a truck driver. However, if you find the pain persists or continues to worsen, please consult with your doctor or physician. 

When it is safe to do so, preferably when you are at a stop, extend your seat back until your leg is almost straight. This position will force your ankle to bend to operate the pedals and may help alleviate the pain temporarily.

Driver Perspective

“Every 150 miles, I stop and walk around the truck. I also take potassium.”

Mitchell McHugh, 23 years of experience

Here is a list of some stretches and warm-up exercises you can do before you begin driving for the day and after you’ve reached your destination:

Stretch at rest stops

Take short breaks every 1-2 hours or as possible to stretch your legs and alleviate tension in the knee joint, improve flexibility and reduce stiffness. Here are a few helpful stretches for drivers knee:

  • Touch your toes and hold that position for ten seconds.
  • In either a standing or kneeling position, perform a quad stretch.
  • Swing each leg in a figure 8 pattern using a smooth, steady motion.
  • Perform a kneeling calf stretch (similar to a lunge).

Do bodyweight exercises

  • Perform bodyweight squats and try to hold the position for a few seconds.
  • Perform bodyweight calf raises, with arms raised, lift upon to your toes and hold for a few seconds.
  • Walk for at least a few minutes during stops.

In addition to these exercises, it’s always helpful to stop when possible, walk for a few minutes, and overall, eat healthy as a truck driver to lessen any aches. 

Make ergonomic adjustments

  • Ensure proper seat positioning and support to maintain a neutral spine and reduce knee strain.
  • Use seat cushions and back supports that provide adequate padding and help distribute pressure evenly.
  • Adjust the seat height and angle for a comfortable position for proper leg alignment.

How to Treat and Prevent Drivers Knee

It can be hard to address drivers knee when you’ve got long hours on the road ahead of you. But taking extra steps to strengthen your knee when you’re off the clock, giving it the attention it needs  and making healthy life adjustments can help prevent knee pain on your next drive. Below are some tips.

Do knee strengthening exercises

  • Engage in exercises that target the muscles around the knee, such as leg presses, squats, lunges, and calf raises.
  • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercises to improve knee stability and reduce the risk of future injuries.

Use cold and heat therapy

  • Apply cold packs or ice wrapped in a cloth to the affected knee for 15-20 minutes to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Use heat therapy, such as warm compresses or heating pads, to relax the muscles and promote blood flow before engaging in exercises or stretches.

Wear supportive footwear

  • Invest in comfortable and supportive shoes that provide stability and proper arch support to minimize the impact on the knees during driving and walking.

Maintain a healthy weight

  • Excess weight can put additional stress on the knees, worsening driver's knee symptoms. Maintain a balanced diet and exercise regularly to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Consult a healthcare professional

  • If the pain and discomfort persist or worsen despite self-care efforts, it is crucial to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can thoroughly evaluate and recommend appropriate treatments or therapies tailored to your individual needs.

Truck driver's knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a common condition affecting truck drivers due to their work. However, drivers can effectively manage and prevent drivers' knee by implementing ergonomic adjustments, taking regular breaks, performing stretching and strengthening exercises, and seeking medical advice when necessary. Prioritizing knee health is essential for maintaining overall well-being and ensuring a comfortable, safe and productive driving experience.

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