Driving After Rotator Cuff Surgery
It is normal to want to get back into your usual routine as soon as possible after surgery. However, it is important to wait until you are safely able to drive before returning to driving after rotator cuff surgery. Your own post surgery wellbeing, as well as the safety of others on the road, could be at risk if you choose to drive too soon.
Adelaide Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean’s recommendations on this page are a rough guide to driving after rotator cuff surgery. Use this guide for reference only. To avoid disappointment, please discuss your individual situation and expected recovery milestones with Dr McLean prior to your scheduled surgery.
How soon can I drive after rotator cuff surgery?
After your surgery, you will be encouraged to protect your surgical repair. Your arm will be immobilised in a sling for a minimum of 2 weeks (up to 12 weeks).
It is recommended that you wait for at least 6-8 weeks before getting back behind the wheel.
Operating a car with one arm is dangerous and should be avoided. Driving too soon also increases your risk of damaging your shoulder in an emergency stop situation. In addition, pain medication may impair your ability to drive safely.
You should not attempt to drive until you are out of your sling, your pain has subsided and you can confidently perform manoeuvres needed for safe driving.
Ortho SA Dr James McLean can give you a professional assessment of your ability to drive safely during your consultation. For more advice about rotator cuff surgery recovery, see this page.
Returning to safe driving
Your shoulder must be healed enough for you to safely control your vehicle under all conditions before you get back behind the wheel.
Consider the following before deciding to drive again:
- The type of car you drive (manual, power steering)
- Driving conditions (bad weather, poor light)
- Your journey length (longer trips may fatigue you)
- The level of pain you’re in
- Functionality in your shoulder and arm
- Your mental capacity to drive (lucid, medicated or distracted by pain)
Test your driving ability in a safe environment (such as an empty car park) before going back on the road. If you can safely and repeatedly perform the manoeuvres driving requires – including emergency stops – you may consider returning to driving.
Do not push yourself – begin with short trips accompanied by another driver and gradually build up to your old routine.
Car insurance considerations
Your car insurance may not cover you for a certain period of time after your surgery, especially if you are taking pain medication. Before you get back behind the wheel, discuss your policy restrictions with your insurer.
Driving and pain relief
Dr McLean may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medication for the first few weeks post-surgery. Pain medication can affect your ability to drive safely by interfering with your judgement, reaction time and ability to concentrate. DO NOT drive while under the influence of pain medication.
How Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean can help
To avoid disappointment, prior to surgery discuss your post-operative recovery schedule and expected recovery milestones with Dr McLean. If you are considering flying after rotator cuff surgery, please read the flying after rotator cuff surgery guide here.
To book an appointment at one of our many Adelaide locations, click here or phone 08 8267 8292.