The time to get back to driving depends entirely on the type of surgery you have had. Most patients do not drive until after their first postoperative visit (10-14 days after surgery). Even then, you need to be careful, especially if you are on pain medication or if your mobility is limited.
- Reflexes and coordination are often somewhat impaired for several weeks after surgery, so care should be taken to drive slowly, with extra distance between cars, etc.
- Most people are able to resume relatively ‘normal’ driving about six weeks after surgery.
- You must regain adequate muscle control for braking and accelerating before you try to drive.
- Contact your insurance company to see if they have any additional restrictions/exclusion clauses on driving after surgery.
Below is a rough guideline on estimated return to driving times following surgery. This is an estimate only, as each case is different.
- Simple knee arthroscopy – 1 week
- ACL reconstruction – 2-3 weeks (less for left leg and automatic car)
- Hip arthroscopy – 2-3 weeks (less for left leg and automatic car)
- Rotator cuff repair – 6-7 weeks
Fly or travel long distances:
The major concern about flying is the risk of deep vein thrombosis, the so-called “economy class syndrome”. Domestic flights within New Zealand are considered low risk, as the flights are short. There is probably greater risk sitting in the car for a prolonged trip. In general terms you should follow the excellent guideline set down by British Airways for avoiding blood clots:
- Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and drinks with caffeine, such as tea and coffee.
- Avoid smoking.
- Stand up in your seat area and stretch your arms and legs.
- Get up and move around as often as you can, at least every hour (If driving, stop the car first!)
- When sitting try moving your ankles around and going up and down on your tiptoes.
- Avoid sitting with your legs crossed.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes especially, socks or tights that are too restrictive.
- Seek medical advice before travelling, if you have a previous history of deep vein thrombosis or you believe you might be at risk.
Get back to work:
There is often a lot of confusion about knowing when to return to work after an injury or surgery. The decision about getting back to work is generally up to you as the patient, and NOT the doctor.
We will identify impairments you may have, as a result of your surgery or injury and give you restrictions and activity modifications to follow.
Whether or not you will be able to work depends on what your job requirements are. If you have a sedentary job driving a computer mouse, major surgery may only keep you off work for a week. The same surgery may keep you from a heavy manual job for 3 months or more.
We will assign your restrictions, based on your injury or surgery, but it’s up to YOU and YOUR EMPLOYER whether or not you can work within the scope of those restrictions.
If your condition is ACC-related or you have work cover insurance, then these agencies will often assign specialist workplace and rehabilitation assessors to assist with the transition back into the workplace.