If you’re a driver who has had or is due to have a hip replacement, then one of your main questions will likely be – when can you get back behind the wheel and start driving again?
Although recovery time is relatively short, those first weeks when you’re stuck at home can feel like an eternity, but it’s also vital that you don’t start driving before you’re ready.
In this article, I will take you through everything you need to know about driving safely after a hip replacement, when you can do it, and who you need to inform about driving again.
Before I begin with this article, it’s important to point out that there are different approaches to hip surgery, and the technique used will depend on the patient’s circumstances. This means that recovery times and advice on restrictions will vary depending on the surgery and direction given by the doctor.
Some patients don’t have any restrictions or might need to follow precautions for a shorter period, whereas others might have restrictions for up to six to twelve weeks.
The information on this site is based on personal experience as a hip replacement patient, the experiences of others, and research. I am not a doctor or a medical professional nor do I aim to give medical advice.
Always check with your doctor first if you need clarification on how long you should avoid certain movements or activities.
When Can You Drive After a Hip Replacement?
When someone has a hip replacement, one of the first things they want to know is when they can start driving again to regain their independence and return to normality.
Most health professionals and doctors give the general guidance that you can start driving at around six weeks after a hip replacement. However, this depends on your recovery and whether you are safe to drive and can do so without experiencing pain.
If given the go-ahead, some people can drive before the six-week period if they have experienced fast recovery and can safely operate the car.
It’s also important to know that driving laws differ for each country. Depending on where you live, you might need to notify your driving license agency before you can drive following surgery. Read on to see more information on this topic.
Driving Safely After a Hip Replacement
Although you might be itching to get back in the driver’s seat, it’s important to ensure that you’re safe to drive – for your own safety and for the safety of others.
Below are some things you need to consider before getting back behind the wheel following a hip replacement:
1 – Can You Operate the Pedals?
Firstly and most importantly, you’ll need to ensure that you can operate the pedals and make all the movements required to stop the car in an emergency.
The best way to assess your ability to make movements in the car is to sit in the driver seat with the car turned off and practice breaking and the foot movements you would usually make when you drive.
Keep in mind that if you had to do an emergency stop, this would require a swift movement that could cause pain in your new hip.
How easily you can operate the pedals also depends on which leg was operated on and the corresponding pedal you need to use.
For example, if you have an automatic car and only need to operate a pedal with your right leg and surgery was on the left, this will make things much easier.
2 – Are You Experiencing Pain?
One of the things that caused me the most pain after my hip replacement was getting in and out of the car. This pain lasted for around six or seven weeks before I could get in comfortably.
Sitting in the driver’s seat might be uncomfortable at first, especially if you have bucket-style seats which require you to sit at a different angle than you would normally.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to ensure you’re not experiencing any pain before you start driving for the first time. I would also suggest starting with small journeys, such as driving to a local shop to pick up some milk.
In time you will be able to drive further without experiencing any discomfort during the journey. However, it is not worth driving if you’re going to cause yourself pain for the sake of waiting an extra week or two.
3 – Are You Still Taking Pain Medication?
Another important consideration before driving after hip replacement surgery is whether you still need to take pain medication during the day.
The type of pain medicine medication a person is given following a hip replacement will vary depending on their circumstances; however, many of these painkiller medications cause drowsiness, with guidance stating that you cannot drive while taking them.
You will need to ensure that you are not taking these kinds of painkillers before you get back behind the wheel because they may make you drowsy, which could have serious implications if an accident were to occur.
If you’re in any doubt about whether a certain medication is safe to take when you drive, consult with your doctor or healthcare professional.
4 – Can You Get in and Out of the Car Without Help?
When you first get into a car following a hip replacement, it’s normal to need a little bit of help; however, when it comes to driving yourself, it’s important to be able to get in and out of the car without assistance.
As you recover from a hip replacement, your ability to do things independently increases with every week that passes, so don’t worry if you still need a little help but wait until you are fully independent before you get behind the wheel.
Do You Need to Inform the Drivers Licence Agency?
USA and UK driving agencies don’t have any specific rules around having to notify them when you start driving after a hip replacement or a specific time when you can start driving again. However, they stipulate that you should seek guidance from your doctor and not drive while taking pain medication that could make you drowsy.
These rules might differ depending on the country where you are planning to drive, so it is always a good idea to check local rules before getting back behind the wheel.
You will probably be told when you can safely start driving again by a doctor or medical professional, either at your pre-op appointment or after surgery. If it’s not discussed with you, it’s a good idea to ask before you leave the hospital.
Do You Need to Inform Your Insurance Company?
Following my hip replacement surgery, I was advised to contact my car insurance company before I started to drive. I didn’t need to alter the policy, but they just made a note on record in case of an accident.
Again, whether you need to amend your policy will depend on the insurance company and the country where you live. So if in doubt, check before you start driving to ensure your insurance is not void in the event of an accident.
Useful Equipment Following A Hip Replacement
Performing everyday tasks following a hip replacement can be a little tricky in the early days following surgery.
To make your life easier post-surgery, we’ve put together a list of essential and non-essential equipment items that will help you to retain your independence and enable you to perform everyday tasks with ease.
Visit our recommended equipment page
More Driving FAQs
Does driving hurt after a hip replacement?
It is not usually until around the six to eight-week point when people are ready to drive following a hip replacement. By this time, many people find they are not experiencing much pain in the area where the surgery was performed. If you are still experiencing pain getting in and out of the car or sitting in a car during a journey, it might be a good idea to wait another week or two before you get back behind the wheel.
Can you drive four weeks after a hip replacement?
Although some people do drive at four weeks after a hip replacement, it is not recommended until you reach around six weeks post-surgery. This is because you might not be able to stop safely in an emergency, and it might still be too painful to drive or sit in a car for a long period.
I hope you have found all the information you were looking for about driving following a hip replacement in this article. Here’s a recap of all the key points:
- Most people can safely start driving after six weeks following a hip replacement.
- You need to make sure it’s safe for you to drive, including stopping in an emergency, driving without experiencing pain, and not taking medication that could make you drowsy while driving.
- Depending on where you live, you might need to inform your driver’s license agency to let them know you are driving after surgery, and you might also need to inform your insurance company.
I hope this article helped you find the information you were searching for. You might also like the related posts in the links below:
Week Six – After Hip Replacement Surgery
Can You Travel in a Car After Hip Replacement Surgery?