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Driving after surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Driving after ALIF...it has been 5 weeks for me so far, since having my fusion on October 1st.

I went to the doctors, yesterday & they said I could drive short distances. I haven't driven yet..but how long was it before you could drive longer distances after you first started driving after surgery? :??

Kristie :)))


  • I had to drive myself short distances at 4 weeks post-op, mostly to physical therapy, then when I went back to work at 7 weeks. I still worry about driving though even 8 months out - when I turn to look over my right shoulder backing out of parking spaces or merging I hear my back crack in my fusion area...
    I think most doctors are concerned about you being off pain meds that might effect driving ability and judgment.
  • I was told I could drive 2 weeks after surgery. I didn't, though, because I was taking pain meds. That's all I need...get in an accident and they find I was driving while under the influence. Once I started, I did have a little difficulty seeing who was in the lane I wanted to get in!
  • My doctor also said I could drive short distances after I was off the pain meds (consistant use), for me this was about 5 weeks.

    He said I could drive only up to 20 minutes until all my restrictions are lifted (sitting, BLT etc...). As of now, I still cant park the car, unless I can pull thru a spot,lol.

    I also have a great deal of difficulty getting in and out of low or high cars, my PT Cruiser is just right. For everyone its different I guess, I seem to have a very conservative doctor,lol.

    Take Care,

  • My Doc said NO WAY for driving as long as I was taking pain meds. Too dangerous.
  • I've been on Percocet 2 pills 4x a day for 8 months now. They don't affect my perception or vision, etc.. So I am cleared to drive while taking them. I drove about a week and a half after my anterior/posterior surgery. It's not illegal here to drive while taking prescription narcotics at the prescribed dosage. So even if you get pulled over, they cannot legally cite you for anything. Although, if someone is affected by it, of course they shouldn't drive, legal or not. Usually, if I have somewhere to go, I won't take my pain meds til I get back, but that all depends on where I'm going and how long it will take, even though I don't feel any side effects... So I dunno. Whatever that is worth to ya. Lol. 1.5 weeks post op driving normal distances... Like half an hour. And I drove extended distances at about 3 weeks.
  • I'm interested in knowing where that is not against the law also. Pain meds don't affect anything I do, but in VA it would amount to me telling the officer that 3 beers (or whatever) wouldn't affect me. They'd laugh me all the way to jail!
  • Illegal if it's not your prescription. if you are prescribed the medication you can drive while taking it. It would be ridiculous for anyone to expect someone not to drive for a year because they're prescribed pain medication for a chronic condition.
  • Having nothing else to do today, I called my local Magistrate's Office and asked him the question. His answer agreed with Lo's explanation. He said that if it's a script that you have to take and it's your script, there would be no problem. I still find this hard to believe. I know meds affect everyone a little differently, but it is scary to think about! Just thought I'd share.
  • That it is scary to think about. Some people are affected very much by their prescriptions, even non-narcotic ones. That's why I think people should use their personal judgement as a deterrent, not so much the legality of a situation. If my meds impaired my ability to drive, I most definitely wouldn't take them. I don't think that's right to do... I think out of concern for innocent people, if not yourself, you should consider not taking it until you get back home, or not driving until the effects have worn off.

    So I guess for me my feelings on it are that it varies by person, and it's something each person should take seriously. Not something to be taken lightly.
  • Amen to that!
  • Well, thank you ladies.

    As far as the drugs, that's not a issue for me anymore. I quit taking the Vicodin 2 weeks after my surgery.

    I guess I was just more concerned with having to twist and all. As far as parking, I'll have to find a parking space that I can drive all the way through, so I don't have to do any backing up. I drive a mini-van.

  • Kristie, do you have sitting restrictions? This is what limited my drive time as I was not suppose to sit for longer than 15 minutes per hour. (I cheated a few times) My restrictions were lifted at 8 weeks post-op. I started driving at 3 weeks, timed around meds not being in my system for 4 hours at least. Once you start driving, you will just gradually get more comfortable with it. >:D< Sue

  • to drive at 6 weeks but the Dr said just sit in the car, go around the block during the quiet time and see how it feels. No problems for me.
    I have just been on holiday and had a 2.5 hr drive then added a few stops to that so it took me nearly 4 hrs. This was the first long drive I have done in many years as I couldn't have done it before surgery. :)

    In OZ, the drug rules are - do not operate machinery or drive a car if effected!" As long as they are prescription meds made out to you that is fine. It is a matter about being sensible, you dont load up on meds then get in the car!

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • Back to orginal question :B :B :B
    P.S. Kirstie has not taken pain meds since 2 wks after surgery ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) :D

    So orginal question::::::::::::
    Driving after ALIF...it has been 5 weeks for me so far, since having my fusion on October 1st.

    I went to the doctors, yesterday & they said I could drive short distances. I haven't driven yet..but how long was it before you could drive longer distances after you first started driving after surgery?



    DDD L5-S1, x-rays, MRI, 2 CT scans, Myelogram, epidural steroid shot, discogram. ALIF L5 S1 on Oct 1st 2008. Wearing soft brace. Quit taking pain medicine after 2 wks of surgery. As of 11/5...still have some mild pains, but doing great!


    My dr said to me anytime I felt comfortable doing so. I think you have to build up a tolerence to driving longer distances. Thats the way I have found it to be.
    So do whats comfortable for you. You will know when to much is to much for your body.

    Glad your doing so well after such a major surgery thats what we like to hear!!! =D> =D> =D> =D>
  • Ok thanks Terri, just kind of wondered how long it took for the people with surgery to drive farther.

    Since I've been driving...all of my 2 days, I have been "over doing it", by staying up too long.

    Wow, and some were driving after 2 weeks!
  • ...going to get in to this debate other to say If you're under the influence, you're under the influence and should not be operating a motor vehicle or any other dangerous machinery. Legal or not. (just my personal opinion)

    Anyway today (here in a few minutes) I have to drive for the 1st time since my surgery. Its to my 1st follow up appt. to get my stitches removed and I have to admit I'm a little uneasy about being on the roads solo so soon after surgery.

    I have to go alone because my wife has a job interview.

    Wish me LUCK. :SS
  • Just so you know I wasn't talking about what you put in your body, if you need meds you need meds. Just don't drive, its the law. Also, if you were talking to me, I think you said "Don't make assumptions toward anyone else's or insinuate that they are doing something wrong. Stick with your own body, your own car, and your own life." So if someone goes driving under the influence of drugs and they get into an accident and kill someone I know, I shouldn't care that they were doing something illegal and they killed a loved one? You also said "When it comes to the legality, let the police handle it. When it comes to the personal responsibility of each person, they know themselves better than you know them, so leave their choices to them and don't even attempt to make ignorant judgments toward them. It isn't rational, logical, or justifiable." You said one thing I agree on, "let the police handle it." I'm not being rational, logical, or justifiable? So your saying fact and the law isn't rational, logical, or justifiable? I'll say it again then I'm done, take whatever drugs you want at home, work, school, wherever you want! Just don't take it while driving.
  • The Department of Transportations policy in regards to prescription drugs in my state reads-

    (d) Controlled substances.--An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle under any of the following circumstances:

    (1) There is in the individual's blood any amount of a:

    (i ) Schedule I controlled substance, as defined in the act of April 14,1972 (P.L.233, No.64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and CosmeticAct;

    (ii) Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance, as defined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which has not been medically prescribed for the individual;

    (2) The individual is under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs the individual's ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.

    So in PA, you may not drive if you are taking a class 1 drug (not many fall into this area). You may drive if you are taking a class 2 or 3 drug, only if it is prescribed for you and it does not impair your ability to drive safely.

    We have specially trained officers, called "Drug Recognition Experts", who can be called to evaluate a drivers level of impairment in regards to prescription meds.

    Every state may be different, check with your DMV(driver and Motor Vehicle Department), to get the specific law in your state. This is the only way to be sure in your area, what the law states.
  • I'm pretty sure most states are like that (drugs that are classified "impairing drugs"), can't be used while driving. Thats all I'm saying, trying not to get anyone upset on here.
  • I wasn't talking to you, but I take all of my meds at my scheduled times, and drive whenever I need to. I have spoken to cops and court officials about it beforehand, and gotten whatever information I needed. I am good to go. And I do go. I don't have someone to call up and use as a taxi. If I have a doctor's appointment, I HAVE to go. If I was affected in any way by my meds, that would be my priority, and I wouldn't go. Seeing as how I've been on the same dose of the same meds for a year now, they barely cover the pain, let alone affect my ability to drive. Please. 10mg of Percocet is not strong enough to impair your perception after a year of taking it 4x a day. I can't even fall asleep anymore from taking my meds. I'm not a stupid person, and I'm not a selfish person. I have had loved ones killed, I have seen friends go to jail for driving drunk and killing someone, I have literally seen someone hit by a car, lying in the road dead with blood from their head all the way to the curb, and their middle aged daughter find her father's body and break down right then and there. For anyone to insinuate that I am selfish and would risk hurting myself or anyone else is pretty ignorant and ridiculous. I'm not that kind of person. People still seem to be misguided by my age. Just because I'm 22 doesn't mean I'm stupid. I'm FAR from stupid. I didn't graduate college with a 4.0 for being a selfish, lazy, idiot. I haven't raised a nearly 6 year old Autistic child who has progressed further in such a short amount of time than any child the director of special education in my area has ever seen, because I'm a selfish idiot. I know what I'm doing, I take care of myself , my son, my loved ones, and whoever else needs me. No one can tell me how I am affected by anything, therefore, they cannot tell me I am doing anything wrong, or judge me as a person. I am intelligent enough to judge for myself, thanks. And like I already said way up in the thread, I've talked to police officers, and was reassured (even though I already knew it was the case) that if I were to be pulled over for something unrelated to reckless driving, that being on my prescribed dosage of any medication, narcotic or not, I would NOT be cited for it. Like someone else said, if you were driving recklessly and hurt or killed someone, it may be a different story... But you don't need to be under the influence of anything to be cited for reckless driving. If I get pulled over for a rejection sticker, do you really think they're going to give me a blood test and say, HEY, you're taking your prescription? TO JAIL YOU GO! No. They aren't. Like I said, I have never been pulled over, for ANYTHING. I don't speed, I don't drive recklessly, I abide by the laws, and I have a perfect driving record. For a reason. So again, unless someone is inside my head and sees this imaginary altered perception, then they have no right to judge me. THE END.
  • Prescription drugs like Percocet, Dilaudid, EVEN Morphine, etc... Are Schedule II drugs. Not Schedule I. Schedule I drugs include Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin, LSD, etc, etc... Therefore, what I said stands.
  • Is EXACTLY what I have been saying all along, and very few people cared to listen. I'm sure, again, because of my age, I must be stupid, and everything I say must be based on ignorance. Lol.

    You are right... Schedule II drugs ARE NOT illegal to take and drive IF you are not impaired... (ie. reckless driving)... WHEN they are prescribed to you and taken in prescribed dosages.

    In MA we also have specialists for such reasons. Especially in my area (Western, MA) Because of the city being so big and the drug rates being so high. I have experienced this second hand... Witnessed it. But no one wanted to listen to me. Someone posted something about how you can still be cited for driving under the influence of your prescribed medications, but what I had tried to explain to them and they apparently still didn't get... Was exactly what that article says.... IF it impairs your ability to drive and control the vehicle. Not just in general, as a whole, entirely against the law. People can actually be cited for reckless driving and driving under the influence if they are taking mixes of LEGAL drugs that impair their ability to drive. If you drink a bottle of Nyquil and are swerving all over the road and drive into someone, you will more likely than not be cited for being under the influence... Even though it's not an illegal substance. LIKE ALCOHOL. If it impairs your ability to drive, you are not supposed to drive. If you have only had a beer or two, and are not impaired at all, you are fine. The 0.08 BAC is the legal line drawn by those who have conducted enough research and case studies to determine where the lower end of the median is.

    I'm glad someone else posted correct information. I was getting tired of having to explain to people what USING GOOD JUDGMENT means. (ie. Taking your prescription, and deciding whether or not you are fine to drive, or whether you should wait.)
  • My Dr said not to drive more than 1 hour without getting out and stretching.

  • Yay for Pennsylvania!


    "Currently, 37 states and Washington, D.C. have laws against drug impaired driving. Within each of these states there are specially trained police officers call Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) who are part of the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program, a transportation safety program focusing on the detection and apprehension of drug impaired drivers. The DEC Program is managed and coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    States with either zero tolerance and/or DEC/DRE drug impaired driving laws are:

    * Alaska
    * Arizona
    * Arkansas
    * California
    * Colorado
    * Florida
    * Georgia
    * Hawaii
    * Idaho
    * Illinois
    * Indiana
    * Iowa
    * Kansas
    * Louisiana
    * Maine
    * Maryland
    * Massachusetts
    * Minnesota
    * Missouri
    * Montana
    * Nebraska
    * Nevada
    * New Hampshire
    * New Jersey
    * New Mexico
    * New York
    * North Carolina
    * North Dakota
    * Oklahoma
    * Oregon
    * Rhode Island
    * South Carolina
    * Texas
    * Utah
    * Virginia
    * Wisconsin
    * Washington
    * And Washington, D.C.


    What does impairment mean?

    "The effects of impairment vary from person to person. In general, impairment can be defined as changes in a person's ability to perform routine daily tasks at the normal level of functioning. Symptoms may include drowsiness or excitability, altered depth perception, or slowed or increased reaction time. Impairment affects your ability to drive, among other things, but these changes can often be difficult to identify. In fact, you could be drug impaired and not even know it."

    Illinois doesn't go by schedule 1,2,3 classes, they say if a drug impairs you, its illegal to take while driving.

    I'm sorry, I can't go by anyones logic if they think Morphine, Cocaine, Amphetamines, and methamphetamine (just to say a few of the "schedule 2" drugs) aren't impairing.
  • Well, my experience was that I was already on a schedule II and Norco when I had a fusion. I was allowed to drive 4 weeks after, and I took it real slow. The Fentanyl does nothing to me, it does not alter my mental status or impair my judgement. They do prosecute for driving under the influence of narcotics and I am aware of that. I remember a case where a woman ran over a little girl, and she was on valium and other psychotic medications at the time. It was prescribed, but even so, she was charged with vehicular manslaughter.
    Every time I get behind the wheel, I know that I am responsible for myself and any passenger's life, as well as other drivers and pedestrians. My surgeon never had an issue with post surgical medications I guess, because I've been on them for long while. And on my bad days, I stay put.
  • Sparky... All you did was prove Shell & I's point. It's only illegal if you are impaired. If you are NOT impaired, it is LEGAL.

    Cocaine, Heroin, etc are SCHEDULE ONE. NOT TWO.

    Morphine is actually less potent than Dilaudid, and I was sent home from the hospital with Dilaudid, which effected me the same way Percocet does... NOT AT ALL. You cannot judge for anyone else's ability or lack of impairment, so don't attempt to.

    I don't think I have ever been in such an insanely simple debate with people who just don't seem to get it. Seriously. In my entire life. This is ridiculous.
  • Meydey you also prove our point. If you are not impaired, it is NOT illegal for you to be out driving.

    If someone runs over someone, it doesn't matter if the drug that impaired them was prescription or not... Narcotic or not. Etc. So that again proves our point. If impaired by ANYTHING, DON'T DRIVE.

    If you are not impaired, IT IS legal to do so providing it is YOUR prescription and YOUR dosage.

  • ...trouble is many people can't necessarily tell that they are impaired until it is too late, or wont admit when they are impaired and will drive anyway.

    This is an interesting discussion but I don't understand why it needs to get heated and hope that it doesn't any further.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • I'm somewhat with paulgla on this topic. I see Lo's point big-time too, when you are single, need to go places, etc. You hate to be a burden to others all the time. I've had this discussion with my PM doc over guilt of being on meds long-term, he says the purpose of pain management is to use meds to improve your quality of daily life and allow as normal function as possible. Legalities aside, those that do take pain meds and choose to drive have to take a realistic, personal responsibility as to whether they are impaired at all, period. I can honestly say I have meds that would knock the average non-pain patient on their tush that don't affect my driving or other cognitive abilities, but I do have some meds to which my reaction is still unpredictable even though I have been on them a while too. However, my big fear is that should an accident happen, even without any impairment, a lawyer would be all over the fact that a driver was on meds. So, my question is for those that would never drive on any narcotics but deal with severe pain - do you just wait a certain period after taking the med for it to me theoretically out of your body, or do you just say OK for the next 3 months I won't drive at all? What about non-narcotic meds that can affect how alert some people are, like Neurontin, Lyrica, even antidepressants used for pain?
  • I live in Florida. The label on my pain killers says "use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery".

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