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Thread: Wondering about driving comfort post-surgery

  1. #1
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    Wondering about driving comfort post-surgery

    I currently drive a 2010 Subaru Legacy. I used to work at home 4 days a week and then one day a week I would drive 156 miles (2 1/2 hours) from my home in Syracuse, NY to my employer's office in Buffalo, NY in time for a 10 a.m. staff meeting, and then return home at the end of the day. But since September I've been driving 50 miles (about 1 hour) each way every work day to work as an onsite contractor at a customer's facility.

    I'm having surgery Monday 1/23, so will obviously be out for a while, but when I am able to return to work, I'm wondering what the issues with driving might be. I'm uncomfortable in the driver's seat of the 2010 Subaru Legacy; I have been since the very beginning. Some of my coping mechanisms while driving include (1) leaning forward to flex my back as often as possible when safe to do so, (2) periodic use of a BackJoy Core, aka a "butt" orthotic -- I always used it when driving to Buffalo, but rarely use it when driving to Rome, (3) lidoderm patches, and occasionally (4) an ice pack strapped around my back -- I used it all the time when going to Buffalo, but haven't used it yet going to Rome.

    I've read on a Subaru forum that many people are uncomfortable in that driver's seat, so it's not just me. Driver's seats are in general uncomfortable for me, because either I can't get the seat back as close to vertical as I would like (my husband is practically laying down when he drives -- I feel like I'm going to fall backwards if I get in after he's driven the car), or the head rest is too far forward and pushes my neck down so that I'm staring at my feet instead of out the window. In the Subaru, in order to work around the head rest that otherwise pushes my neck down, I have to recline the seat further than I would like it to be.

    What do other people do to get comfortable while driving? Given the nature of my job, this is a critical issue for me. I don't really want to have to go so far as to buy a new car (my husband bought the car I drive now to replace a much older car that wouldn't have been trustworthy for so much driving, especially in the snow). Any suggestions?

    -- Thanks,
    Mary

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
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    My Honda Accord was always comfortable pre-op but post op, my back just didn't fit the way it curved backwards. It left a big hollow right where I needed support since I'd regained a nice bit of lordosis. So I curved one way and the seat curved the opposite way. I found a rectangular cushion the perfect thickness and it holds me upright instead of slumping into that hollow.

    It's amazing how different it all felt post op. Having regained 2 inches was part of it - and caused a few bumps on the head getting into the car.

    When you first drive, you'll find it difficult to wriggle around. Your pants will seem to grip hold of your seat for example, until your muscles regain strength. So I used the suggestion of a fellow forumer and got a sheet of satin and threw it over the entire seat. That enabled me to shift around more easily.

    There's almost always a solution to every problem!
    Surgery March 3, 2009 at almost 58, now 63.
    Dr. Askin, Brisbane, Australia
    T4-Pelvis, Posterior only
    Osteotomies and Laminectomies
    Was 68 degrees, now 22 and pain free

  3. #3
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    I think it's almost universal, that driving or riding in cars, especially for long periods of time, is difficult post-operatively. I dealt with it by purchasing a gel foam seat cushion, and ordering a custom memory foam pillow to fill in the indentation in the seat back. It's not perfect, but it did allow me to at least be relatively comfortable. I used this company: http://www.foamorder.com/pillows.html

    --Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LindaRacine View Post
    I think it's almost universal, that driving or riding in cars, especially for long periods of time, is difficult post-operatively. I dealt with it by purchasing a gel foam seat cushion, and ordering a custom memory foam pillow to fill in the indentation in the seat back. It's not perfect, but it did allow me to at least be relatively comfortable. I used this company: http://www.foamorder.com/pillows.html

    --Linda

    Linda,

    Thanks! Did you get the item called "Lumbar Pillow" on that site you pointed to?

    -- Mary

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JenniferG View Post
    My Honda Accord was always comfortable pre-op but post op, my back just didn't fit the way it curved backwards. It left a big hollow right where I needed support since I'd regained a nice bit of lordosis. So I curved one way and the seat curved the opposite way. I found a rectangular cushion the perfect thickness and it holds me upright instead of slumping into that hollow.

    It's amazing how different it all felt post op. Having regained 2 inches was part of it - and caused a few bumps on the head getting into the car.

    When you first drive, you'll find it difficult to wriggle around. Your pants will seem to grip hold of your seat for example, until your muscles regain strength. So I used the suggestion of a fellow forumer and got a sheet of satin and threw it over the entire seat. That enabled me to shift around more easily.

    There's almost always a solution to every problem!
    Jennifer,

    Thanks! I'll try to remember that when the time comes.

    -- Mary

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdtaffet View Post
    Linda,

    Thanks! Did you get the item called "Lumbar Pillow" on that site you pointed to?

    -- Mary
    Hi Mary....

    No, I actually had a custom pillow made. The way I figured out what I needed was by starting with various sizes of towels, folded into various configurations. I discovered that I needed support for the seat back, to fill in the indentation. (My car seats are similar to airline seats, with the seat back sort of scooped out. Who thought of that anyway? I can't imagine it would be comfortable for anyone.) Once I knew what I needed, I measured the indentation, and had the pillow made. For my car, I needed a cushion ~12X18X1-1/2.

    Regards,
    Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Oregon
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    Hi all,

    I was given a large amount of lumbar lordosis during surgery (about 90 degrees of it actually) whereas I had none before surgery, so I had a lot of trouble being very uncomfortable in the car. A friend suggested getting the mesh back support from Bed Bath and Beyond for $10 that straps onto a chair, and I use it to this day in the car. My new back simply does not comform to the seat (and I drive a Volvo XC70 which should feel great but doesn't).
    Gayle, age 50
    Oct 2010 fusion T8-sacrum w/ pelvic fixation
    Feb 2012 lumbar revision for broken rods @ L2-3-4
    Sept 2015 major lumbar A/P revision for broken rods @ L5-S1


    mom of Leah, 15 y/o, Diagnosed '08 with 26* T JIS (age 6)
    2010 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    2017 curves stable/skeletely mature

    also mom of Torrey, 12 y/o son, 16* T, stable

  8. #8
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    Jan 2010
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    Syracuse, NY, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by leahdragonfly View Post
    Hi all,

    I was given a large amount of lumbar lordosis during surgery (about 90 degrees of it actually) whereas I had none before surgery, so I had a lot of trouble being very uncomfortable in the car. A friend suggested getting the mesh back support from Bed Bath and Beyond for $10 that straps onto a chair, and I use it to this day in the car. My new back simply does not comform to the seat (and I drive a Volvo XC70 which should feel great but doesn't).
    Leah,

    I bought one of those the other day when I went shopping for new sheets and a new comforter; I figured it was time to get something that wasn't in really bad shape, now that I'll be spending a bit more time in my bed (hopefully including getting a bit more sleep at night -- these days I average about 4 to 5 hours sleep a night; I'm a night owl, but also have to get up very early for work these days). I tried it briefly in the car last week, but it didn't really feel all that great. Maybe it will after surgery.

    -- Thanks,
    Mary

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Bend, Oregon
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    Don't forget that the sensation changes continually for quite awhile. I just hit my 1 year anniversary, and I am finally able to drive somewhat comfortably without any pillows. I also drive a Volvo- a low slung C70- and I also have to be careful to not hit my head when I slide in!

    The car seat itself seemed ok, but the head rest is attached at an angle that just didn't fit my new body. If I leaned back into the seat, the head rest kept my head at an angle that had me looking too far down toward my feet, so I had to fill in around my mid back level so that I was sitting forward enough to allow my head to rest back at the head rest. It seemed huge at first, but eventually I went to a smaller and smaller pillow. It also seemed to push hard into my very lower back, even with the lumbar support turned all the way down. I was forever fiddling with the electric seat. When you drive a distance and finally find something that feels somewhat comfortable, save the position if you can! I would hate it when I would finally get it right and forget to save it, and the hubby would take the car and move the seat to fit him. It would take me a long time to get it right again. It eventually all worked out with time. Everyone and every car is different, so you won't know what you will need until the time comes....

    I started with a curved mesh support cushion first, (which wasn't comfortable before surgery), then a small rectangular pillow, and even one of those small "kooshie" smooshy bead pillows. Yes, that is my technical term!!! It worked really great in bed and around the house for propping, too. Especially for getting comfortable for sleeping. I changed the car set up every couple months, it seems. Now that I think about it, it was probably one of the things that took the most adjustment after surgery!

    P.S. You will love how BOTH sides of your back touches the car seat and chairs at home. Only a scoli patient with rib and shoulder humps can understand how strange and great that felt the first time I sat down!
    Last edited by jeneemohler; 01-21-2012 at 02:26 PM.
    Jenee'-52
    Bend, Oregon

    Braced 3 years in high school
    Lumbar 70'+ Thoracic 70'+
    I had 3" shrinkage in 6 months...

    Surgery Jan 10, 2011
    9 hours
    T3 to S1 with pelvic fixation
    Both curves now 35'

    Possible revison for Flatback Syndrome
    Non-fusion
    Loose/broken hardware-awaiting CT results

    Here is the link to my before and after pics..
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showt......&highlight=

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeneemohler View Post

    P.S. You will love how BOTH sides of your back touches the car seat and chairs at home. Only a scoli patient with rib and shoulder humps can understand how strange and great that felt the first time I sat down!
    Jenee,

    Thanks for your reply. My issue is primarily lumbar; my thoracic is small and compensatory. So no rib hump here; never heard of a shoulder hump, but I doubt that I have that either.

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean about the head rest making you look down at your feet. Mine is the same way.

    My husband usually drives my car in between every time I drive, so I'm pretty much always having to readjust the seat. I feel like I'm falling when I first get in after he's driven the car, because he's practically laying down -- or at least that's what it seems like. He'll be driving my car while I'm in the hospital and while I'm recovering afterwards; his car needs to be replaced, but winter time isn't the best time for that due to the salt on the roads.

    I just wish my job wasn't 50 miles away; I dread having to make that daily one hour commute each way once I'm ready to head back to work, whenever that might be. But at least it's unlikely to be in the snow....

    -- Thanks,
    Mary

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Indianapolis area
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    Mary,

    Best wishes for your surgery Monday and a speedy recovery! Please post or have someone post ASAP and let us know how you're doing!

    ,
    Evelyn
    age 48
    80* thoracolumbar; 40* thoracic
    Reduced to ~16* thoracolumbar; ~0* thoracic
    Surgery 3/14/12 with Dr. Lenke in St. Louis, T4 to S1 with pelvic fixation
    Broken rods 12/1/19; scheduled for revision fusion L1-L3-4 with Dr. Lenke 2/4/2020
    Not "confused" anymore, but don't know how to change my username.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Confusedmom View Post
    Mary,

    Best wishes for your surgery Monday and a speedy recovery! Please post or have someone post ASAP and let us know how you're doing!

    ,
    Evelyn
    Evelyn,

    Thanks!

    Posting afterwards will have to wait until I can do that myself. I have an application on my iPad called Splashtop Streamer that allows me to use the iPad to connect to and work on my Windows desktop. So once I am able to use that, I'm sure I'll be offloading my e-mail and posting status, etc.

    -- Mary

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