Living with Chronic Pain
Travel Tips While Living With Chronic Pain
Whether for fun, familial obligations or business, traveling can be exhausting, especially for individuals who live with chronic pain. The stress and tension associated with travel can cause and/or worsen pain symptoms. Taking the time to plan and prepare for the journey can help ease travel anxiety and set the tone for a pleasant journey.
A few tips to help make traveling more comfortable and less stressful include the following:
Learning as much as possible about the journey ahead is essential to making a smooth transition. Travel details that should be secured include the following:
- Mode of transportation and directions
- Times of arrival/departure
- Detailed information on places that will be visited
- Information about room and board (hotels, cruise ships, etc.) regarding elevator access, accessible restrooms, etc.
Another important tip is to travel during times of the year when pain levels are typically decreased. If flares are common in the heat of the summer, a trip during the autumn months may be more comfortable. If crowds are bothersome, avoiding high-peak travel days is a good idea. Also, if possible, planning an extra day at the start of a vacation and an extra day at the end of a vacation to rest and recover is beneficial.
- Choose the right luggage
Luggage equipped with wheels can be pushed instead of carried. Using both hands to push bags, rather than pull them, reduces pressure on the hands and shoulders.
- Pack light
Packing light is essential, especially if an individual does not have a travel companion. Lifting and carrying luggage can aggravate chronic pain.
- Gather health information
A brief medical history along with a list of current medications can be included in a wallet or carry-on bag. Individuals should include contact information of their health care provider(s) and any health insurance information that may be required if a medical situation arises.
- Pack medications
Individuals should pack more medication than required in case of an emergency (usually an extra 3-4 day supply is sufficient). Medication should always be in their original pharmacy containers and packed in a carry-on bag. Before traveling, researching pharmacies at the destination is also a good idea in case medication is lost.
- Assemble a comfort kit
A comfort kit contains anything that would make the journey more comfortable, such as heat wraps, cold packs, entertaining distractions, etc. Small pillows are great to use behind the back or on a seat. A light blanket is nice for keeping warm and also can be used rolled up for more back or neck support.
- Pack healthy snacks
Packing healthy snacks helps individuals avoid the temptation to purchase high priced, high fat and high calorie processed food that is available at most gas stations or rest stops. Reusable water bottles are a cheap and healthy way to stay hydrated; they can be refilled at drinking fountains along the way.
During the trip
Individuals with chronic pain should be honest with their travel companion(s) about their physical limitations. Sitting for long periods is not healthy for anybody, especially individuals with chronic pain. If driving, stopping about once an hour to stretch and walk loosens the joints and increases blood flow. If traveling by bus or train, individuals should choose an aisle seat (if possible) so stretching or walking during the trip is more accessible. Distractions like books, videos or music are also great for long trips (tablets are ideal for this).
Arriving at the destination
Arriving at the final destination is exciting! To make the trip more enjoyable, it is important to ask for help when needed and take advantage of any amenities offered. Certain rental car companies offer amenities specifically for people with pain conditions, such as vehicles with tilt-able steering, adjustable seats and vehicles big enough to easily accommodate wheelchairs or rollators/walkers. While traveling, individuals with chronic pain should remember to maintain a comfortable pace and enjoy the trip! Hospitality specialists and concierge are trained to make sure their guests are as comfortable as possible, so individuals should not be hesitant to ask for assistance.