Driving Difficulties With Ankylosing Spondylitis
Last updated: September 2023
Ever since I was a teenager, I had one goal, which was to learn how to drive and get my license as soon as possible. I’m sure you can relate. I started driving at the age of 18, I took lessons, practiced in my mam's car and passed my test within a year. I bought my first car at the age of 19. A beautiful Mini Cooper. Since I was a child, I have always loved Mini’s. My Mini was silver with black stripes. Absolutely gorgeous, if I may say so myself.
Having a sense of independence
I live in a very rural part of Ireland, so I needed to have a car.
Getting on the road while still a teen was even better than I had anticipated. The sense of independence was amazing. I was able to drive myself to college, work, to my boyfriend and friends' houses. I didn’t have to depend on my family or my boyfriend for spins anywhere. I could just get up and go wherever I wanted to, whenever I wanted. It made me very happy indeed.
My independence was taken away because of my ankylosing spondylitis
The last time I drove my car was in March of 2020. I have taken it out for a short spin here and there, but I always regret doing this. While driving, my shoulders, neck and back are in absolute agony. Between the changing pedals, changing gears, and heavy steering, it makes it very difficult for me to drive. At the moment, my car has been at my boyfriend's house for the past two months. I felt brave and drove my car to his, instantly regretted it and I haven't been able to drive it home since. If there is one lesson I would like to share from this: an old Mini is not a good car for someone who suffers from AS.
Not only is driving painful but it is genuinely dangerous. Sometimes while driving my neck or shoulders will spasm and I am unable to look left or right to see if a car is coming. So, naturally, I have made the decision to stop, for now.
I miss driving, I miss having my independence. This is only temporary, and I know that, but still!
I want my independence back!
I am getting better each day. Hopefully, in the next 6 months to a year, my spasms will stop and I will get my neck and shoulder pain under control.
As I am not driving, I am able to save a lot of money as I am not spending it on petrol... petrol in Ireland is not cheap! So now while I can do this I have decided to save for a new car. I think I will treat myself.
I will buy a newer automatic car. This will be easier for me to drive as I won't have to change gears. As my current Mini Cooper is old the steering is very heavy on it. This won't be the case with a newer car.
Up until recent times, automatic cars in Ireland were extremely rare and virtually impossible to get. Unfortunately, they were seen only as a solution to motoring for individuals with a disability and as a result, the price tag on an automatic car would be crazy! Thankfully this has changed in the last few years and it seems now almost every second car is automatic. So, my options are endless and there are plenty available for sale in my area. I’m thinking of a BMW but my bank manager might have other ideas...
I’ll treat myself, as I deserve it!
Has changing your diet helped manage your pain and flares?