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When Can I Drive After Orthopedic Surgery?

Did you know that one of the most common questions asked after an orthopedic surgery is “When can I start driving again?” Given how closely driving is linked to our independence and freedom, it makes sense that this is a top concern for many patients. After all, orthopedic surgery often has more of a direct impact on your mobility.

The truth is the impact orthopedic surgery can have on your driving varies from person to person. Recovery from an orthopedic surgery is different for everyone, and your specific experience has a big impact on when you can return to normal activity. However, there are some basic guidelines that can be used to give you a more general idea of what to expect.

Factors That Contribute to When You Can Drive Again

Before you get back behind the wheel, it’s important to know when it’s safe to do so. When that happens to be the right time, depends on several factors.

  • Can You Bend the Joint? – If any part of the joint or body part can’t bend, you probably should not drive. Driving a car often requires specific movements and having an impairment on your mobility is extremely dangerous when you’re on the road. A good test is to get in your car with the engine off and see how well you can operate the pedals and the wheel.
  • Do You Have Limited Movement? – It’s common to have limited movement of the affected area after an orthopedic surgery. Before you start driving again, assess the full impact of any physical limitations. If it feels like you need extra support turning the wheel or frequently need to readjust your foot to accelerate, you shouldn’t start driving again.
  • Which Body Part Had Orthopedic Surgery? – The body part that was the focus of your orthopedic surgery plays a big role on when you can drive again. For example, if you had a total knee replacement, your recovery is likely to be longer than if you had surgery on your rotator cuff. That’s why it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your orthopedic doctor. With regular checkups, they can give you insight on how your recovery is progress and the impact it has on your driving.

Goals That Indicate a Safe Return to Driving

While the length it takes for each person to safely return to driving varies, there are universal goals that you can strive for, which include:

  • You have normal function of both your hands and wrists.
  • Your shoulder’s range of motion should be able to reach a full 90 degrees.
  • Your lower limbs should not be in a cast or splint, and if you have to use crutches to move around, you should wait to start driving again.
  • Flexing your legs should not cause any pain or discomfort.
  • You’re able to fully extend both elbows for a prolonged period of time without experiencing discomfort.
  • Even if your body is strong enough to drive, you also need to take you reaction time into consideration.

Once you hit all of these goals and get approval from your doctor, you’ll be all set to get back out on the open road. It’s also a good idea to make a gradual return to your driving activities. As you feel more comfortable, you can safely increase your driving time and distance. After all, jumping back into your full driving habits carries a risk to not only your safety, but to everyone else’s on the road.

Discover Premier Orthopedic Care in Madison, IN

If you or a loved one is need of professional orthopedic services, make King’s Daughters’ Health your first choice. We offer premier orthopedic care for all ages and our doctors are ready to support you from your first appointment to the end of your recovery from surgery. It’s our goal to help you enjoy your life and hobbies with expert orthopedic care. Contact our team today to learn more.

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