In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Effects of Chronic Low Back Pain on Driving

Person driving from the back angle

Most adults around the country take driving for granted. It’s something they do on a regular basis, whether it’s just to go to work or to run errands and do the grocery shopping. But for the millions of people who suffer from chronic low back pain, driving may pose some challenges. This is exactly what researchers set out to explore in a recent study.

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Scandinavian Journal of Pain Case Study

Researchers took a look at driving with chronic pain in February 2021 [1]. Noting that driving is something regularly done and that is a part of life for people in the U.S., researchers wanted to see what characterized the driving experience of people who experience chronic low back pain. Their study focused on psychology, catastrophizing, affective responses, and self-reported driving behaviors and outcomes.

For the study, they surveyed over 300 patients in the U.S. who have recurring chronic low back pain and who drive regularly.

Data Surveyed

What Researchers Found

They found that there was a significant positive association with the psychological factors of driving in pain. These include pain catastrophizing and pain intensity. Many people who have chronic low back pain find it difficult to stay focused while driving, or they may take pain medication prior to getting behind the wheel.

Their results also showed a statistically significant relationship with pain intensity and the following:

  • While driving
  • Responses to driving in pain
  • Driving violations
  • Driving avoidance due to the pain

Results also showed that participants who had a collision within the prior three years also reported greater pain exaggeration and thought distractions.

This new research sheds light on an important issue that many people with chronic low back pain experience, especially considering that the problems with driving in pain can lead to accidents. They still need to be able to go where they need to be, but the pain can cause problems with their driving abilities, and they may even avoid driving altogether because of it.

Those working with chronic low back pain patients may want to discuss it with them so that arrangements can be made to drive them somewhere if they feel they are having difficulties with it on their own.

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  1. Scandinavian Journal of Pain. When driving hurts: characterizing the experience and impact of driving with back pain. February 2021.
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Posted: May 10, 2021
<a href="" target="_self">Dr. Steven H. Richeimer</a>

Dr. Steven H. Richeimer

Steven Richeimer, M.D. is a renowned specialist on issues related to chronic pain. He is the chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California. He has written or co-written a large number of scientific articles about pain medicine. He recently published an instructive book and guide for pain patients. Dr. Richeimer has given numerous lectures to medical and lay audiences throughout the U.S.

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