Living with Chronic Pain

International Travel and Chronic Pain


Traveling can be both relaxing and rewarding; however, it can also exacerbate pain. International travel requires planning and preparation, especially for individuals with chronic pain conditions. To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip, several considerations should be made prior to traveling internationally, while dealing with chronic pain.


Individuals with chronic pain should pack enough prescription and over-the-counter medications to last the entire length of the trip, plus a few extra days in case travel delays occur. Medications should be packed in a carry-on bag to avoid being lost.

Prescription medications should remain in their original packaging. Taking a copy of the original prescription is also good practice. Controlled substances, such as medical marijuana or opioids, may be banned in certain countries. Laws and requirements of individual countries should be investigated prior to travel. Determine if medications are permitted in the country or if legal paperwork is required prior to entry.

Once arriving at the destination, individuals should not plan to obtain additional medicine. Certain medications may not be available or may not meet quality standards. If necessary to obtain medicine while traveling internationally, individuals should only purchase from licensed pharmacies and ensure the medication is in the original packaging.


Individuals who regularly use cold packs, heating pads, or other devices to reduce pain, may need access to these items during the flight. Travel versions of these items may be available that can easily fit in a carry-on bag. Individuals should also consider if a heating pad plug will fit into an international outlet.

International flights

International flights can be lengthy, cramped and uncomfortable, especially for individuals with chronic pain. Pain medication should be taken an hour before boarding the plane to allow time for effectiveness. Having small travel pillows available may make the seat more comfortable. Walking and stretching during the flight also helps minimize pain and stiffness.


Health insurance plans may not provide international coverage. Individuals should check with their health insurance provider to determine coverage prior to international travel. If health care abroad is not covered, additional coverage may be available to purchase.

Medical care

Individuals with chronic pain should develop a plan for seeking medical care if pain escalates or an emergency arises. Travel agencies, hotels, or embassies or consulates can provide locations and contact information for local physicians, clinics and hospitals. Obtaining this information before it is needed helps lower stress levels.

Individuals should also have health details available (e.g., blood type, current medications, allergies, emergency contact information, etc.) in case urgent care is needed. Including important information on a medical alert bracelet may also be a good option.

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