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Neck pain & driving

Does anyone here drive? I'm after ideas as to how I can work around/through my neck pain & headaches when it comes to driving.

I can turn my head, but some days it is harder (and more painful than others) - therefore sometimes I find it particularly difficult to shoulder-check & reverse as I have trouble looking over my shoulder.

I actually have a driving phobia and I am currently working through it slowly with help, but this fear has been exacerbated by having trouble turning my head at times & therefore not feeling safe.

Also my headaches sometimes make it a little hard to concentrate due to the pain and this scares me a little when it comes to driving. But if I wait for a day when my neck is good & I don't have a headache, I would probably drive once a month if that. I'm trying to learn to drive, so once a month won't really cut it.

I don't really think 'don't drive' is an appropriate answer as I don't even have a diagnosis. No-one in the medical profession takes me seriously when I say that my neck pain & headaches are affecting my quality of life (including driving) and don't really seem to care. People seem to think I'm faking at the moment & everyone thinks I should drive (and asks why I don't) - if all I can say is 'I don't drive cause my neck hurts' they treat me like I'm being pathetic. I would like to drive if possible cause it will make things a lot easier for me (public transport here is really bad) but I don't know how to work around my pain.

Any ideas?



  • I found that in order to drive I have to have a vehicle that has a design where I don't have to look out from under the top of the windshield. In other words, when I sit in the vehicle I should have great head clearance, the ability to view traffic lights without having to lean forward and look out from under, large side mirrors and a decent rear view mirror. I actually had to go through 4 vehicles to find one that would allow me to drive without causing more pain. The seat has to have great upper back support and the steering wheel has to be adjustable so I can comfortably rest my arms where the strain is taken off of my shoulders.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    After I had my multiple ACDF's, I found it close to impossible to turn my head to the left in order to get a clear view of traffic coming along my side.
    To compensate for this, I put in one of those extra-large almost panoramic review mirrors. This helps and allows me to see things both to my left and right.
    Also as "C" touched upon, having the 'right' vehicle is so very important. I have found that the SUV type vehicles give me the best window views. Coupes and Sedans restrict my views.

    There are times still, however, that I need to unbuckle my seatbelt, then basically shift my body around so I can see whats coming up on my left. And when thats no possible, I use my mirrors and then wait to hear any beeps. If I am clear, no sounds, if not, I will get the audible impact from another driver.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I had to have extra mirrors added to my side mirrors in order to feel safe - they give a 2nd angle, and I can clearly see if anyone is in the lane next to me without having to turn my head. It also helps that my car has a good amount of visibility and is fairly compact, so I really can see just about everything without having to turn or twist my neck much. Since I'm not sure how much range of motion I might lose after the upcoming ACDF (C4-7), I'm looking into ways to have a backup assist/rear camera system installed (or trading my current car in for one that already has it), so that I have even more security when backing up.
    Slipped on a wet stair case the morning of 10/31/11, landed flat on my tush & blew up my spine & both SI joints.
    3 level ACDF C4-C7 7/11/12 (collapsed discs & severe cord compression)
    lumbar fusion to be scheduled once healed from ACDF
  • bookcatbbookcat United States Posts: 66
    I am waiting for a surgery date for a 2-level ACDF (C5-7) and driving while taking oxycontin and norco for pain control. It's not the best situation. Several things have helped make it easier. Adaptability is key and the other posters have some great suggestions. I added those small bubble mirrors to my side mirrors so I could see in the blind spots without having to turn my head too much. I now drive in the slow lane when I am having a bad day to give me more time to react if something happens.

    When I do have to turn my head, I try to turn my entire upper body. That has helped give me more turning radius. I am careful with signaling, keeping space between me and the car in front. I an usually better in the am so I schedule appointments and run errands in the am. I use the smog routine: signal, check the mirror, glance over the shoulder, and go. That builds in some redundancy to help keep from making mistakes. I also turn the radio off so that it's quiet and I can concentrate better.

    The pain meds do affect my concentration. I can only try to be as safe as possible and to rest frequently in between times I have to drive.

    Good luck learning to drive and stay safe.

    2-level ACDF (C5-7) being scheduled
    3 PLIFs: 2003, 2005, 2008
    PLIF L1-3 6/13
    ACDF (C5-7) 8/12
    PLIF (L2-5) 2003/05/08
  • I also have that sort of problem, and restrict my driving time now.
    Right shoulder gets very sore, then neck gets stiff. It all hurts.
    We had to give up caravanning partly because it was just too awkward for me to do the manoeuvring.

    Driving can make you tense anyway, so if you already have tight muscles you are in for a difficult time of it.

    Try to keep your arms held low, if you can. Held high is much more of a strain.
    Use the armrests as much as you can, too.
    When you stop, stretch and loosen up your shoulders. At least every 30 minutes!

    I'd suggest you visit a physio or remedial masseuse to try to find out why you have this problem.
    May well be knotted muscles which can be gradually relaxed with a series of massages.

    If you are already putting your neck, shoulders and arms under stress from work, computer or whatever, you are already behind the 8 ball and your body is in trouble.
    Modify your activities-it takes a long time to get over RSI-and get some massages.
  • I have a terrible phobia for driving I do not even know where it came from. It wasnt like I had an accident or anything, I used to love to drive and now I am so scared that the cars next to me are WAY TOO CLOSE! So now being 10 weeks post op from C4-C7 ACDF I am still having trouble with ROM and I find that I use my mirrors alot and I have an SUV so I sit a little higher and that helps but I am pretty much a nervous wreck for most of my trips. Just started back to work thank God it is just a 15 minute trip. I can look to my side but over the shoulder is painful so I find that I keep a close eye on cars coming up and try to sort of memorize the cars around me( that sounds strange). I think ok there was a red car just there now where did it go. I hope no one here drives around Orange County because God Bless you to be on the road with me !!!lol
    Kimberly Martin
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    edited 06/24/2012 - 6:49 AM
    Please keep in mind that it is against the law to be driving while under the influence of ANY medication that can impair your ability to drive.(Most of them) Legally prescribed or not.

    If the law doesn't get you due to physical/mechanical impairment they will get you if you have ANY narcotics or other medications that could cause drowsiness in your system.

    I speak from experience(s) - the best teacher out there!!

    I no longer drive, for my own safety - and the safety of everyone else on the road.

    Keep your buggy in the garage, till you are 100% med free, or call a friend or a cab!!

    With Concern,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • I'm sorry, I don't mean to high-jack this thread, but I wanted to ask...Metalneck, doesn't it depend on what your states law is? I have metal too and still need oxycontin to make it through my days/nights. I'm starting to wonder if I will be off this stuff...
  • Accuracy questionable after further research
    Severe DDD, Severe neural foraminal stenosis at 2 levels, moderate canal stenosis at 2 levels, significantly impaired left shoulder & arm function. Chronic moderate compression fracture at C6.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    Yes, States vary regarding their formal policy regarding driving while taking narcotics. What Dave states is very true, depending on what state you live in.
    But I also think that part of Dave's message was really saying that Driving while impaired with narcotics is not a safe thing to do. Forget about the state laws, its just about common sense. If you are in any way impaired due to whatever medication you are taking, then there are certain activities you should not do.
    Driving being probably the most important. You may feel like you are driving fine, but if one day, your impairment results in an accident that kills someone, the concept of if a State allows it or not is really not important anymore.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Narcotics Per Se' .... Any medication - even OTC (over the counter) meds such as benadryl or Nyquil daytime or Night-time etc, etc, etc, could lead to charges of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) if the investigating officer(s) believe that the medication(s) have or are causing reduced capacity in the form of response times, drowsiness, sensitivity to light and a whole list of other possible side effects.

    I believe that the labeling on the medicine bottles do us a great dis-service by reading "Use caution when operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery untill you know how this medication will effect you". If you are using a medication ... even know you may believe you have no - or know the side effects - the guy/gals in blue will view it differently.

    Bottom line is if these substances are found in your system and you are in an accident or are "caught" performing other traffic violations - the officers of the law can and will attempt to draw a direct correlation between what meds (RX'd legally, OTC, or Illicitly) you are taking, and how they may have impared/caused the violation(s) and therefore effected your ability to drive safely.

    Round one is in their favor as you did (or didn't) do something to catch their attention.

    Unfortunately .... I speak from experience.

    Be safe and don't become complacent with the issue of driving on medication. This is a very serious issue. For many its a time bomb just waiting to explode.

    WIth Concern,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • Joe241JJoe241 Posts: 185
    edited 06/27/2012 - 10:46 AM
    I have to agree with metal neck, when I was on the fentanyl patch I mentioned it to my brother who is a police officer and he told me to get off the patch if driving. He told me he has taken people from court straight to jail for being under the influence, I also had lawyers tell me the same thing. I live in New Jersey so I don't know if it applies to other states but everyone needs to think about the civil aspect, if you are involved in an accident and a personal injury lawyer gets involved you will be paying a lot of money. If you're home owners insurance does cover you they will drop you right after case is closed, That is why I asked to be taken off the fentanyl patch even though it was great for pain. Remember you can be sued for anything, in NJ if you are driving in reverse the accident will be your fault no matter what, if you drive with a cast on either foot you are liable if involved in accident.
    ACDF C5-6 July 10, 2012 with plate and screws.
  • heartstringzhheartstringz Posts: 10
    edited 06/27/2012 - 9:14 PM
    Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I will give them a try.

    Metalneck, thanks for your comments - I knew it was illegal to drive under the influence of narcotics etc, but I didn't know that there was also the possiblity of getting charged for driving under the influence of over-the-counter meds. I will have to look into that and see whether that is also the case in my country (I'm in Australia). I only take muscle-relaxants by prescription & just basically live on OTC medications (ibruprofen). So I will do some research!
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    edited 06/28/2012 - 4:24 AM
    Ibuprophen has little to no side effects. So your probably safe with that one! Cold Remedies and Benadryl (Diphenhadramine) would be the ones to use extra caution with on the OTC side.

    AT any given moment there are more people driving under the influance of narcotics and OTC's than there are drunk drivers - kinda a scarry thought - but true.

    Be safe everyone!!

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • Harris7Harris7 Posts: 4
    edited 07/01/2012 - 9:18 AM
    interesting! although I have no expert, but I want have to know more and more, on your blog just interesting and useful information. Keep it up!
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