Living with Chronic Pain
7 Tips for Taking Public Transit With Chronic Pain
Taking public transit, such as a bus, train, subway or ferry, can be an effective mode of transportation. However, when dealing with certain types of chronic pain or invisible illnesses, such as back or neck pain, joint pain, chronic migraines or headaches, etc., public transit can increase pain levels. Certain steps can be taken to ensure public transit is more comfortable.
Seven tips for taking public transit with chronic pain include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Secure a seat. Standing on public transit may aggravate chronic pain or lead to unnecessary fatigue. Do not be afraid to take an available seat. Many forms of public transit have specially designated seats for individuals with disabilities. If no seats are open, politely ask someone if they are willing and able to give up their seat. If necessary, a transit operator, such as a bus driver, may be able to help with securing a seat.
- Button Programs. Public transit operators in larger cities have developed programs that give individuals with disabilities a button, badge or card to wear that reminds others to offer them a seat or that they have a disability. In other locations, individuals can create their own.
- Bring low back support. Seats on most types of public transit do not provide proper lumbar support, which can contribute to pain. Placing a lumbar support pillow, or a rolled-up jacket or blanket, behind the lower back can help.
- Bring items that can ease pain. Oftentimes, public transits expose individuals to bright or flickering lights, loud noises, and jostling motions. Those with chronic headaches may want to bring sunglasses or ear plugs. Medications reducing pain or motion sickness may also be beneficial.
- Use temperature therapy. Applying a heating pad or ice pack during transit can help reduce pain. Adhesive heat wraps, disposable hand warmers, cold packs, or a plastic bag filled with ice are good portable options.
- Stand or walk when possible. If necessary to be seated for a long period while using public transit, getting up to walk or stretch can prevent stiffness and pain. Finding an aisle seat can make this easier.
- Stretch while seated. If standing or moving is not an option or is unsafe, stretching while seated can help prevent stiffness and ease pain. Individuals can do seated “cat-cow” stretches by rounding the back and chest forward, then sticking the chest out while tilting the head up. Stretching the hamstrings can be accomplished by putting one foot in front of the body and slowly leaning forward until feeling a gentle stretch in the back of the thigh. Simple neck stretches, such as bending the ear to the shoulder on both sides and bending the head forward, can also help.