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Driving and commuting

If you have arthritis or a related condition, particularly if you have had a joint replacement, this may affect your ability to drive.

If you hold a current driving licence and develop arthritis, and the condition affects your driving, you must inform the Drivers Medical Group at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The DVLA has more information driving with a medical condition.

When applying for a provisional licence you must declare that you have arthritis. You'll have to pass the same test as any other driver, but you may be allowed extra time.

It's unlikely that a person with arthritis would be asked to take another driving test simply because of the impact of their condition, but you may be issued with a licence for a shorter period or need to adapt your car with special controls. If your doctor tells you to stop driving because of your medical condition, you must surrender your licence to the DVLA.

Driving Mobility is a charity that helps people with medical conditions which may affect their ability to drive or get into a car. Your regional centre will be able to help with:

  • driving assessments – the assessor can give advice on how to make driving easier and on gadgets (for example panoramic mirrors, seat belt aids) which can help
  • practical advice on special car adaptations, such as swivelling seats, wheelchair hoists or steering wheel knobs
  • passenger assessments to see how you can get in and out of a car more easily.

Public transport

Using busy public transport can be difficult and unpleasant if you're experiencing pain, fatigue or mobility issues. Your condition should mean that you are entitled to have a priority seat on a train or bus. This can be difficult if you have arthritis as your condition is hidden. This is why Transport for London (TfL) has been trialling a scheme where people who have hidden conditions, illnesses and injuries can wear a badge which says 'Please offer me a seat', similar to the 'Baby on Board' badges.

One possible way to avoid using public transport during busy periods could be to ask your employer if they can let you work flexible hours, which could see you either start early and finish early, or start later and finish later, to avoid rush hours. Starting later might also help you avoid travelling at times when your joints might be quite stiff.

Think about what the journey to a potential new workplace would be like if you're applying for jobs.

Driving for a living

There are health risks associated with any activity that requires you to be in the same position for long periods of time. If your job involves driving, there are things you can do to look after the health of your joints, particularly your neck, back, shoulders and hips. Here are some helpful tips:

Your seat

  • Raise your seat as high as is comfortable so you aren't slouching and so you get a good view of the road, without having to stoop because of the roof.
  • Your seat should be far enough forward so that you can push down all the pedals with your feet without needing to stretch.
  • Your seat cushion will need to support the length of your thighs without putting pressure on the back of your knees.
  • Make sure your back rest supports your back all the way up to shoulder height, while allowing easy reach of all hand controls, and that it's correctly adjusted to provide even pressure in the lumbar region of the spine.

Posture

  • Your shoulders should be relaxed and your elbow should be slightly bent when holding on to the steering wheel. If necessary you can adjust its position. You'll need to make sure that you're not obstructing your knees or your vision of the display panel.
  • Change your posture regularly.

Taking breaks

  • You should aim to take at least a 15-minute break from driving every two hours.
  • During your regular breaks, stretch key areas of your body, such as your neck, back, shoulders, hips and knees to ease tension.
  • It would also be a good idea to have a good brisk walk around on your break as this will get the blood flowing again to muscles and joints, which can also really help to ease tension, aches and pains.

General tips

  • Try not to be tempted to use your car as your office.
  • If you're ever in any discomfort from driving, talk to your line manager about it.

Stay healthy

Staying fit and healthy will really help you. Try to:

  • have a low-fat, low-sugar, balanced, nutritious and healthy diet
  • exercise regularly, preferably daily
  • have a healthy lifestyle, don't smoke and only drink alcohol in moderation.

It can be difficult to stay active if you work long hours and your job is tiring. However, the more active you're able to be, the better it'll be for your overall health and wellbeing as well as for the health of your muscles, bones and joints.

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