Friday, October 23, 2009

Can I Make Driving More Fibro-Friendly?

boppy head
I've mentioned several times in previous posts that part of living my best life despite chronic illness is discovering ways to make activities "fibro-friendly." (Tip: search "fibro-friendly" using the Lijit search tool in the right hand sidebar to find other fibro-friendly ideas.) Well I think I have found a new use for the perennial baby shower gift, the Boppy, and I think it is going to help make driving easier for me.

Let me explain...

First, let's talk a bit about the intended use of the Boppy. The Boppy was designed to help moms breastfeed their babies. It essentially is a big U-shaped pillow. It is designed to be worn around the waist (the dad in the picture above is just a bit confused) and the baby rests on the Boppy and is positioned closer to the breast. Dads can use the Boppy too when they feed baby with a bottle. (Follow this link for How to Use instructions: click here.)

Now let me tell you a bit of background information about the problem I am trying to solve. My biggest challenge with driving is being able to rest my arms while holding the wheel. If I can't rest my arms on something, I wind up aggravating the pain, numbness and tingling that travels up and down my arms, from my hands to my neck. I learned earlier this year, after spending 90 minutes in an MRI machine, that all these symptoms are being caused by something called thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).

What is thoracic outlet syndrome? Basically it is a condition where the nerves and blood vessels supplying the arm and hand are being pinched between the clavicle and the first rib. The picture above gives a good visual of the problem (courtesy of ADAM, Inc.) The chronic pinching makes the nerves and blood vessels inflamed, which perpetually fuels the pain cycle. There is no quick and non-invasive fix for the problem. The surgical fix, which I am actively avoiding, is very risky: damage to the nerves in this area can result in the decreased use of my hands.

So back to the Boppy. My neurologist made a comment to me that people with TOS often hold the steering wheel down low (at the 6 o'clock position using the clock metaphor) to avoid aggravating their symptoms. I tried this but found this not to be the perfect solution. This got me thinking about ways I could support the weight of my arms while I was driving to reduce the stress on them, like using pillows to prop them on. With some extra support, I could hold the wheel a bit higher up, like at 4 and 8 instead of at 6. Somehow in my brain that lead to my thinking about the Boppy, even though I had never used one or even seen one for that matter.

Photograph of the steering wheel of a 1998 Vol...Image via Wikipedia

Fast forward to yesterday: I am running errands and find myself in Target. Wouldn't you know it, there in the baby section is the Boppy. I take it out of the package and put it around my waist and wow, it looks like it is going to work. I put in into the cart of the shopping scooter and head to the checkout line. When I get to the car, I buckle up and put the Boppy in place around my waist. It's a little too puffy in the front and the steering wheel rubs against it, but the arm support is fantastic.


So when I got home, I perform some Boppy surgery (i.e. seam ripping and unstuffing) and I think I have succeeded in modified the Boppy so it won't rub up against the steering wheel as much. Now I am ready to test it again on my next outing in the car. I'm not sure if this is THE solution to my driving dilemma, but as long as it doesn't impair my ability to steer the car I am going to give it a try.


Please note that my crazy idea might not be for you. So let me give you some referrals for vehicle modification resources for the disabled. If you need help modifying your vehicle so you can more easily drive it, try contacting a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist through the The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists website. There is also a wealth of information about what modifications are possible for motor vehicles at the Infinitec, Inc. website. You can also try Googling "vehicle modifications for the disabled."

DISCLAIMER: The Boppy is not manufactured to be a driving aid. If you use the Boppy as a driving aid, you do so at your own risk and you assume all liability.

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1 comment

Karlie Philpott said...

Love your idea. I actually use a junior body pillow made by Snoozer to support my arms while I drive. Now I can drive nearly pain free.

It is amazing how often I use a pillow throughout the day for extra support and comfort. On my blog http://thebodypillowshopblog.com/ we discuss many ways that pillows are used in the treatment and rehibilitation of various coniditions and injuries. Check it out and thank you for yours.