Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon

Driving After Carpal Tunnel Surgery


The ability to drive plays a significant role in most busy lifestyles. But it is important to wait before driving after carpal tunnel surgery, both for your post-surgery well being and for the safety of others on the road.

Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean has provided the following recommendations as a rough guide to driving after carpal tunnel surgery. Please note that this guide is for reference only – speak to Dr McLean after your surgery for recommendations tailored to your situation.

How soon can I drive after carpal tunnel surgery?

It is likely you will not be able to drive for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. This is because you may experience some sensitivity or pain in the first weeks, which can hinder your ability to safely drive a car.

It is sensible to wait until your wound has healed to prevent your stitches from loosening and your wound opening. This usually takes 10-14 days. Most people are able to begin gentle driving approximately two weeks after their carpal tunnel surgery.

Your readiness to return to driving is dependent on your individual case – please speak to Dr McLean for a professional assessment prior to driving and to avoid disappointment.

Self-care after carpal tunnel surgery

It is wise to have a pre-planned mode of transportation to get home after your surgery. Ask a friend to assist, devise a public transport route, or set aside funds for a taxi. Plan your activities with the awareness that you will also need to:

  • Apply cold packs at regular intervals for the first few days to help reduce swelling
  • Rest the hand as much as possible for at least four weeks after surgery
  • Exercise your hand according to SA Ortho Dr James McLean’s advice

Further information on post-operative considerations can be found here.

Returning to safe driving

It is important that your hand/s are healed enough for you to control your vehicle under any conditions, especially an emergency situation.

Take the following into consideration before you attempt to drive:

  • What type of car you drive (manual, power steering)
  • Driving conditions (bad weather, poor light)
  • Your journey length (longer trips may fatigue your hands)
  • Any pain you are experiencing
  • Motor function in your hand/s
  • Your mental capacity to drive (lucid,  medicated or distracted by pain)

A sensible rule of thumb is to first test your ability to drive in a safe environment such as an empty car park. If you can safely and repeatedly perform all emergency stop procedures and manoeuvres driving requires, you may consider returning to driving.

Car insurance considerations

Your regular car insurance may not cover you if you have had recent surgery, and/or are taking pain medication. Contact your insurer to discuss your policy conditions before getting into the driver’s seat.

Driving and pain relief

You will likely be taking pain relief medications similar to sedatives after your operation. These medications can interfere with your ability to concentrate, your judgement, and your reaction time. DO NOT drive while you are taking these medications for your safety and that of other drivers on the road with you.

How Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean can help

Discuss your post-operative recovery schedule with Dr McLean prior to your operation. If you are planning on flying home shortly after surgery, please read the flying after carpal tunnel surgery guide.

To book an appointment at one of our convenient Adelaide locations, click here or phone 08 8267 8292.