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from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Staying Healthy

Can I drive in a sling?

Sabrina Strickland

Sabrina Strickland, MD

Any views or recommendations shared in the Ortho-pinions blog are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Patients seem to suffer from amnesia after shoulder surgery in one specific area: driving. I tell my patients before they undergo shoulder surgery that, if I perform a repair, they will be in a sling for a minimum of four weeks — and this means no driving. I realize how difficult this is, but there is no way around it.

Many times, patients don’t realize the enormity of their predicament until they find themselves stuck at home. Luckily, I practice in New York City where many patients have easy access to public transportation and taxis which makes the no driving rule easier to follow. However, most patients live in suburbs where no driving is equivalent to house arrest.

Specific comments I often hear are that there are people with only one arm who can drive. While this is true, these people have specific modifications to their car and steering wheel making driving “one armed” safer.

The bottom line is that, if you need to be in a sling, you cannot drive. It isn’t safe, especially if you encounter any surprises on the road. Prepare for this time by setting up carpools, stocking up the house in preparation for surgery and stockpiling lots of work that you can get done with one hand to keep yourself busy.

Learn more: Shoulder Surgery Exercise Guide 

This Ortho-pinion was originally written for A Nation in Motion, the AAOS's award-winning public awareness campaign dedicated to sharing the stories of people whose lives were improved by orthopaedic surgery.

Last Reviewed

March 2019

Contributed and/or Updated by

Sabrina Strickland, MD

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.