Chronic pain is displayed in any number of ways: aching or throbbing pain, burning sensation, stinging, pins and needles, sore muscles, stiff joints, weakness, headaches, sleep deprivation, fatigue, post trauma, post-surgical, and so much more.
The sensations of chronic pain can limit your daily activities and keep you from doing things you love. Like travelling. And it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to travel safely. There may be ways now to still enjoy a vacation or trip to visit your family while lessening the aches and pains of spine and joint discomfort. Travelling long distances can stiffen muscles and joints. Consider some of these options, and always check with your physician before venturing out.
Traveling By Air
- When flying, purchase your tickets well in advance so you can pick optimum seats. Purchase the highest level of comfort you are able to afford. Flights can be long and airlines have tight seating in the coach cabin, so upgrading to business class will give you more leg room. If you have a credit card with airline miles, purchase a coach seat and use your miles to upgrade!
- Avoid sitting in a middle seat on an airplane. The best option is on the aisle where you are able to stand, stretch, or take a walk without disturbing your seatmates.
- Get up and stretch once every hour. A brief walk in the aisle will improve your blood flow. If it’s safe, head to the back of the cabin and do some toe touches to stretch out your back and legs.
- Carrying excess weight onto the plane places stress on your hands and wrists. Attempting to store carry-ons in an overhead bin can cause strain on your back. Check your luggage and take a small bag with only what you will need on the plane. Be sure to pack your meds in this bag.
- Obtain a TSA pre-check status. The cost is $85 and is worth the investment if you are able to afford it. The status will place you in a shorter pre-check line and you won’t be required to remove your jacket, shoes, electronics, or unpack liquids. If you fly frequently, this is well worth the cost.
- Disposable stick-on heating pads can be a life saver if your pain acts up. The warm heat can last for several hours and ease joint or muscle pain.
- Carry a warm, soft jacket or poncho. Airplane climate control can be tricky and if you don’t need the covering for warmth, you can roll it up to use behind your neck for support.
- Compression socks may help improve your blood flow if you are unable to get up and stretch.
- Bring an empty water bottle and fill it after your pre-check. This way you will have an ample supply of hydration without relying on attendant service carts that provide a small cup.
- Bring small snack packs of nuts to provide you with protein on long flights.
- The size of an automobile can make the difference between a painful or comfortable ride. If possible, travel in a larger model that will provide ensure comfort.
- Use rest stops every hour where you have the opportunity for a short walk. This will get the blood flowing in your legs and allow you to stretch.
- Those same disposable stick-on heat pads like Therma Care or Icy Hot that you bring on a plane can be used in the car as well. Carry a few with you if you feel pain in your muscles or joints. They are also useful when you arrive at your destination to ease stiffness from your journey.
Traveling By Train
- Yes, train travel takes longer than air flight, however it can be the most comfortable mode of transportation for a long trip. Seats are wider than a plane and you are able to stand, stretch, and walk frequently. Tip: book a front facing seat if you are prone to motion sickness.
- A sleep cabin is one of the more ideal methods of travel. You have your privacy as well as lots of leg room and a bed for resting at your leisure!
- If you have a documented disability, Amtrak offers a 15% discount.
- Hydration plays a key role in keeping your muscles and joints in working order, particularly when flying. Drink lots of water when traveling. Lack of hydration may worsen your chronic pain.
- Plan on your first day of arrival to rest. Long hauls can exacerbate chronic pain and having a rest day built into your plans will make the remainder of your stay more enjoyable.
- Pack light to avoid excess weight in your luggage. Try to coordinate clothes as mix and match for your entire stay. For example, if you pack all blue clothing, you will need fewer shoes, tops, and pants and be able to mix and match your wardrobe. Less luggage means less stress.
- Be well rested before your travel. Lack of sleep can trigger pain so allow yourself an ample window of planning time.
- Dress comfortably in layers to adjust to climate changes.
Bottom line, chronic pain does not have to ruin your travel dreams. Stress can cause pain so advance plans will make the journey easier on your body and your mind. What travel tips do you have?
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