It seems that driving is often a common issue for those of us with the chronic pain of Fibromyalgia. For me it’s a combination of the strain on my shoulders and neck from my TMJ as well as strain on my leg and hip from having to reach for the gas/brake peddle.
Back in 2010 when I first began experiencing chronic pain I was driving an Acura TL that sat low to the ground. The low seats and the distance between my seat and the pedals seemed to aggravate the pain I experienced. I tried adjusting my seat and steering wheel. But after driving for a bit, I realized it still wasn’t working. No matter what I did, I was still reaching and straining.
In the end, we decided that we were going to have to find me a new car. We came up with a list of requirements:
- Seats that sit like a chair, with my legs bent at the knees rather than straight out to drive.
- Steering Wheel that I can reach the middle of (3 and 9 o’clock) without feeling like I’m reaching up to do so.
- Low enough to the ground that I’m not climbing up into it.
Because I follow the Dave Ramsey plan, I also had to be able to pay cash for it after trading in my existing vehicle (a 2006 Acura TL with just shy of 100k miles). This put my budget at just under $20k. Initially, I wanted to buy something used and felt I’d get more value for my money by doing so. But, in the end, it really came down to finding the vehicle that was the best fit.
After doing quite a bit of research we found that the cars that were most likely to work were the new boxy style cars like the Scion Xb, Nissan Cube or Kia Soul. Other crossover SUV type vehicles also fit the bill, as well as a few smaller cars (the Scion XD, for example). In talking to others with Fibro, some of the cars that they mentioned not having trouble driving were the Honda Element, Chevy HHR, and larger Sedans. In the end after sitting in the cars and driving several, the one car that worked for me was the Kia Soul.
Making that change changed my life. It’s been over 10 years and I still love my car. Driving no longer aggravates my chronic pain. It’s probably the most comfortable car I’ve ever driven, and I’d buy another one without a second thought.
5 Tips for Making Driving With Chronic Pain More Comfortable
I realize we can’t all trade in our cars for something that fits better, but there are changes we can make with existing cars. If driving gives you pain here are a few tips to help you adjust.
- If your seat sits low, adjust it up if you can. If your seat will not adjust to a higher position, try sitting on a pillow or two to raise yourself up (just make sure the pillow is positioned so that your weight is evenly spread across it, and you are not sitting at an angle).
- If your feel your legs straining to reach the gas peddle, move your seat forward. If you can’t move it any further forward, try a pillow behind your back or even an extension on the gas peddle.
- If your arms/ shoulders are straining to steer, adjust your steering wheel down, if possible. If you’ve got your steering wheel down as far as it will go, you may still want to try a pillow under your butt and/or behind your back.
- Try a lumbar support like they make for office chairs. It will help your posture as you drive and also gives you a little push forward. I even use one of these while riding as well as driving.
- Make sure that you can rest the heel of your driving foot on the floor while driving. Being forced to have it hovering in the air causes your whole body to tense up. There are pads/ risers that you can get to help out with this issue.
In the end, the only option may be changing cars; whether it’s trading with a spouse or trading in. If you do have to trade your car in, take a lot of time to try different cars. Start with sitting in each car you are considering and adjusting the seat and steering wheel to the most comfortable position. Don’t bother test driving a car if you can’t even get comfortable just sitting in it. If you start to feel pain while driving, stop and let someone else finish driving the car back to the dealer rather than extend your pain and possibly make it worse.
We have enough pain in our lives, there’s no reason that driving should make our chronic pain even worse. What kind of car do you drive? Does it make your chronic pain worse? Or do you find you can drive without aggravating the chronic pains?
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