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Spiney Drivers

Scott in the UKSScott in the UK Posts: 136
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi people,

My fusion surgery(L4/5) is due next month and I'm sure if I asked the question I could get an answer from my surgeon but it's not my surgeon living with the hardware etc.

My question is. . .how long after surgery was it before you felt able to drive again ?

Also please bear in mind that here in the UK the majority of cars are manual or what I believe you would call stick shift as mine is.

I'm just concerned about how long I'm going to be relatively house bound after my surgery.

Thanks in advance,



  • I was advised by my surgeon not to drive (I have manual) for 6 weeks after my 2-level fusion on L5-S1 + L4-L5 this July. I understood this was because you have to be able to withstand an emergency stop/collision. If you are given similar restrictions, then after such time has lapsed, only you would know what your pain levels are and what your mobility is like, therefore, until you feel confident and comfortable to drive, then the decision of when to drive (after, say, 6 weeks) is up to you.

    For me personally, I felt absolutely fine pain-wise and decided to try driving for only ten minutes to start with - just to get the feel of it again. I did find leaning forwards painful, so I used cushions to provide lumbar support for this. There I was, driving pretty well (I thought) until I arrived home. If you've read previous posts from me about this, then I apologise for repeating myself. I had to reverse into my driveway and twisted around unthinkingly (is that even a word!) to look behind me. Well, I felt a sharp pain in my spine and was so worried that I'd damaged the hardware - especially as this pain left me back in bed (again), lying down, for at least a week! Thankfully, when I eventually went for my hospital review appointment 3 weeks later, I was so relieved to find out that the hardware was fine after the routine x-rays were taken. But I was left experiencing a higher level of back/leg pain after this incident. I had to up my pain meds and had to take Amitryptiline to help me sleep, which I was having difficult doing because of the increased pain. I know it was my own fault, but it taught me a lesson to be far more protective/aware of my back in future and not to do such silly things again - no matter how good I may feel. Thank heavens for wing mirrors!

    It's so easy to be complacent and feel that you can conquer the world, only for your back to let you know otherwise. I am still on medication (especially at night) because my pain hasn't disappeared yet and it still wakes me up during the night (the same as before the surgery disappointingly). It's so frustrating!

    There is no 'set' time to start driving. Even if your surgeon says it's OK to drive at 6 weeks (as mine did), I wonder if some people phone their insurance company first to get peace of mind? If you were unfortunate to be involved in an accident and damaged your back, would you still be insured? I don't know.

    To be very honest, I didn't phone the insurance company. My reasoning was that 2-level fusions can take up to two years to be fully 'fused' and for all the nerves (which could be distrubed during surgery) to settle down. As I have been passed fit to return to work by my employers Occupational Health doctor, with reasonable adjustments to be considered under the DDA - then I presume driving is OK as I need the car to get to/from work.

    Hope all this makes sense (I'm writing this at 11.30pm, exhausted after staying up until 4 this morning to watch the last Chile Miners being rescued - amazing and very emotional TV coverage!!!). Anyway, I digress.... It would be interesting to get other opinions from 'spiney drivers'
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Hi Scott,

    I'm just 2 weeks post-op 2-level lumbar fusion and am driving a little. I wasn't told anything about whether I could drive or not, except the standard precaution about being impaired when on pain meds. I came home in a brace and do wear it when driving--well, I got by without the brace once two days ago but probably won't do that again. The reasoning is what would happen to my back if I were in a wreck, even a small one. The brace would certainly help but I can tell I'd still be in deep trouble if I was rear-ended, for instance. And, like SueD said, a person has a tendency to do things unthinkingly (yes, I think that's a word!) and you end up paying the price later. I drive only where I must go when nobody is around to take me, and I make sure I haven't just taken any meds within the last 2 hours, say. Don't know what I'll do if I have to stay on meds which leave me impaired--just started on Lyrica day before yesterday and it does wonders for my nerve pain but leaves me half dizzy and loopy. I won't drive if I'm feeling that way.


    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Scott,

    While I can’t give you an exact answer as I have not had my surgery yet, I did ask my doctor about that. His response was that he did not want me doing much of anything for two weeks, but after that if I was off of pain killers he would have no problem with me driving. He did caution me about making abrupt stops and, of course, the risk of getting into an accident.

    As for manual trans., it’s been a very long time since I owned a stick car, but the only problem I can think of would be possible leg pain from using the clutch. I’ve driven some cars where pressing the clutch was like nothing, and some that felt like you were getting a leg work out.

    Of course, you have the added problem that the steering column, as well as all the other controls are on the wrong side of the car (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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