The holidays may encourage frequent trips in the car to run errands or visit family. To help osteoarthritis patients who may experience challenges driving cope, expert clinicians have put together a list of safe driving strategies. The strategies are reportedly aimed at preventing arthritic joint pain from further limiting OA patients’ mobility behind the wheel.

“Loss of muscular strength and/or range of motion, joint stiffness, pain, and fatigue are key factors that influence the ability to perform critical driving maneuvers, including checking blind spots, turning, steering, reversing, and responding to sudden changes in the driving environment,” Peter G. Deziel, PT, vice president of therapy services at Concentra Medical Center in Atlanta, Ga, explains.

OA patients purchasing new cars, experts say, should shape out a strategy that takes into account the range of motion required to enter and exit a vehicle, depending upon how low it is to the ground. 

Erica Beth Stern, PhD, OTR/L, associate professor at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn, occupational therapy program in Minneapolis, explains that, “Firm seats are usually most comfortable and easiest to enter/leave, and bench seats may be easier to get in or out of than a bucket seats. 

Other reported suggestions include that OA patients test car doors, of which lightweight and wide models may be the most helpful, and the car’s trunk. In addition, Deziel recommends. “Keyless entry and ignition,” as they, “decrease the stress on the small joints of the fingers.” To decrease stress on arms, hands, wrists, and shoulders, adjustable and padded steering wheels, experts recommend assist handles on the car doors, and choosing automatic over standard transmission. 

While some minor modifications may allow OA patients to drive more comfortably, Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, certified driver rehabilitation specialist and coordinator of the Older Driver Initiative at the Bethesda, Md-based American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), cautions that, “The best modification is no modification because vehicles are designed with safety in mind, and the safety features on the vehicle have been rigorously crash tested. Before modifying a vehicle, make sure that everything is adjusted optimally.”

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Source: Everyday Health