Chronic Pain & Driving: Here’s What You Need to Know

Those affected by recurring pain from a past injury may find it difficult to even stroll to the car and back. On the other hand, you don’t want your pain to prevent you from living your best life. So, you can’t let it stop you from getting where you need to go. But, what should you do if you’re likely to experience pain while driving?

Ultimately, if you suffer from chronic pain after an injury, it’s crucial to receive clearance from your healthcare practitioner before driving. In some cases, the discomfort you experience, and/or the medications you are required to take for maintenance, can make you a threat to yourself or others on the road. If you haven’t been cleared to drive by a licensed physician after seeking medical attention following an injury, stay off the road.

Instead, use these alternatives:

  • Find someone else to drive you where you need to go.
  • Hire a taxi, Uber, or Lyft driver.
  • Use public transportation.
  • Look for private rideshare opportunities in your area.
  • Walk where you need to go.
  • Stay home and opt for the delivery of necessary items.  

If you do have clearance to drive from your healthcare provider, but you still experience pain behind the wheel, how do you deal with it when you’re on the road? How do you prevent it from returning? Here’s some practical driving advice for chronic pain sufferers.

Create a Comfortable Driving Environment

If you suffer from pain in your hands, you probably dread driving. If your recurring pain makes it difficult for you to grip your car’s steering wheel, try no-slip steering wheel covers — they make it safer for you to drive. If necessary, don’t be ashamed to ask a store employee, family member, or friend to install it for you.

If you have chronic pain in your fingers, you likely already use rubber jar openers at home — they make gripping, twisting, and turning easier. So, now, keep one in your car. Why? You can use it to comfortably remove your car’s gasoline cap. And, you can probably get 20 rubber jar openers for the price of one specialty wrench.

Keep Yourself Warm in the Winter

Many chronic pain sufferers experience heightened sensitivity when cold, especially during freezing winter months. If you live where colder temps contribute to your pain flare-ups, it is crucial to warm your car before you get in it. Regrettably, this might entail additional trips back and forth in the cold. So, to stay warm, invest in a remote car starter.  Doing so will allow you to start and heat your car from inside your home.

Furthermore, you can choose a remote starter with the functionality to unlock your car doors; this will prevent you from fumbling with the keys, which can be helpful for recurring wrist and knuckle pain. While shopping for a remote car starter, look for shops that offer free or discounted installation.

Pain Medication Considerations for Driving

Most chronic pain sufferers use some kind of products to relieve pain. So, to prep yourself for sudden pain while driving, keep your pain relievers in your car.

This may include:

  • Over-the-Counter NSAIDS
  • Pain Relief Cream or Gel
  • On-the-Go Heat Patches 

Thermal heat patches for pain are ideal for travel when you can’t access an electrical or microwaveable heating pad. The ease from heat patches can last as long as 12 hours. Alternatively, disposable hand warmers placed on the area of localized pain can be helpful temporarily.

Whether or not you experience pain as soon as you get into your car or later down the road, rely on store-bought products for comfort. Do not, under any circumstances, drive under the influence of prescription drugs that alter your mind or make you drowsy. The last thing you want to add insult to injury is a DUI or worse — harming yourself or someone else on the road.

If you live in an area where the weather can be harsh, do not keep pain relief items in your car during Summer or Winter months — extreme cold or heat may alter the chemical makeup of the products. Once altered in this way, medications can become ineffective or even harmful. As an alternative, store them in your purse or pack.

Final Thoughts

After an injury, don’t get behind the wheel until your doctor says it is safe for you to do so. Once that happens, follow the advice above for the safest, most comfortable driving experience possible.

Author Bio

This post was written by Scott Distasio, founder of Distasio Law Firm in Tampa. His career focus is civil trial law for personal injury. He specializes in auto accidents, bicycle accidents, and slip and fall cases.