Because you control the pedals of your car with your right foot, driving after a right knee replacement can take some time and adjustment. For both road safety and so you don't injury your knee, it is important to ease back into driving and give yourself adequate time to heal.
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Talk to your doctor. Although your body will ultimately be your guide when it comes to determining when you can drive after your right knee replacement, your doctor can can explain recovery and when you can start driving again.
Finish your narcotic pain medication. If you still need to rely on your prescription narcotic pain medication, then you are not ready to drive. Pain medication can make you too drowsy to drive. In fact, according to University of California at San Diego Medical Center, driving while taking narcotic pain pills could net you a driving under the influence charge.
Test your abilities. You should be able to get in and out of the car easily. You should also be confident that your reflexes have returned to their pre-surgery levels. In other words, if you need to brake suddenly for instance, you should be able to move quickly to do so. Likewise, don't get behind the wheel if you feel like the strength in your leg is compromised. If you feel like your leg isn't as strong as it was before the surgery, then you are not ready to start driving.
Drives as normal. University of California San Diego Medical Center stresses that you shouldn't drive after a right knee replacement until you feel confident that your reflexes and leg strength have returned to your pre-surgery levels. If you stick to those guidelines, you should be able to drive without any special adjustments to your seat, pedal or driving habits. Of course, as you begin to drive again, listen to your body and react accordingly. If you find it is more comfortable to push your seat back farther to reduce the bend in your knee or that you need to leave a little extra space between you and other cars so you don't have to slam on the brakes, do so. However, as long as you wait for your right knee to heal adequately, you shouldn't have to to make any post-surgery adjustments to you normal driving habits. If you find you need to make too many allowances to accommodate your pain, reflexes or strength, you may need to wait a little longer before driving again.
Tips and warnings
- The UC San Diego Medical Center estimates that it takes patients an average of four weeks to return to driving after a right knee replacement, but every patient is different. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggest you may need to wait as long as eight weeks.
- Do a trial run in the car on a quiet street or parking lot with a someone else in the car who can take over if you find you are not up to the task yet.
- If you are unsure about whether or not you are ready to get behind the wheel again, ask your doctor for advice.
- Never drive if you don't feel like you the strength and reflexes to control the car or if driving is causing you pain. You could put yourself and others in danger and damage your new knee.
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