Easing the way for drivers with chronic pain
Chronic pain can interfere with our ability to drive, but there are ways to help.
Many drivers can feel their muscles twinge after a long stint behind the wheel but for people with chronic pain, the challenge of driving for prolonged periods can impact their everyday lives. Experts say 14 per cent of Australians – 3.5 million people – suffer chronic pain, but many want to continue to drive.
“Sometimes people find it difficult just getting in or out of a vehicle but want to adapt because they see driving as their independence,” says chief executive officer of Pain Australia, Carol Bennett.
She says there are many strategies and devices drivers with chronic pain can use to keep themselves safe and comfortable behind the wheel, including talking to health professionals.
However, RACV research into Australian drivers suffering chronic pain has found health professionals need clearer guidelines on treating the issue to help motorists manage their pain.
Researchers interviewed 17 Australian health professionals and found they wanted specific training to better assess the subjective nature of pain and its effect on driving ability.
Researchers also conducted an online survey of 90 motorists, half suffering chronic pain and the rest being pain free, to assess the impact of pain on driving. They interviewed 23 drivers about their experience with chronic pain.
RACV’s senior policy adviser on safety, Elvira Lazar, says this study is the first in Australia to seek strategies to improve safe driving among individuals with chronic pain.
She says the research shows motorists with chronic pain have difficulty with prolonged driving which can impact their daily lives.
“The pain is often exacerbated after prolonged driving and there is an urgent need for better guidance to take the guesswork out of the best way to manage chronic pain in relation to driving,” she says.