Traveling with Chronic Pain

  • August 10, 2021

Traveling With Chronic Pain

Traveling is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons, experience new cultures, and get away from the day-to-day stresses of life. However, traveling with any chronic pain condition can be a challenge. Let’s face it, many of us who suffer from chronic pain sometimes have trouble doing everyday activities such as getting out of bed, sitting for long periods, cooking, and cleaning. Adding travel to the to-do list in addition to the challenges of having a painful condition can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be! Keep reading to get some tips on traveling with chronic pain.

Prepare for the Trip

Consult With Your Physical Therapist and Health Care Providers

Before you start preparing for the trip, speak with your physical therapist first (if you are currently going to physical therapy) and explain to them that you will be traveling and how you will be traveling. Whether it’s by plane, train, bus, or car, you and your physical therapist can work together to develop a game plan to help keep you pain-free during your travels.

Give Yourself Enough Time to Prepare

Preparing for a trip can be a big undertaking. Making sure to book all the accommodations, book your flights, have enough clothes packed, and getting to the airport on time can be super stressful. Giving yourself adequate time to pack and prepare will help reduce your stress levels and give you the confidence that you’ll have everything you need to manage any pain you may be experiencing. 

What to Pack in the Carry-on For Chronic Pain:

  • Be sure to pack any pain management tools in your carry-on so that they are easily accessible to you. 
  • Fill your prescriptions early and pack those in your carry-on. If you are flying and TSA questions you, you may want to have a list of your medications in your bag along with your doctor’s name and phone number.
  • Did your physical therapist give you a printout of exercises to do? Be sure to bring a hard copy of your exercises with you so you can access them while traveling and in case the wi-fi is spotty.
  • Pack any documents you’ll need on your trip. Keep your wallet, passport, and flights tickets out of your suitcase. Instead, please keep them in your carry-on or on your person. 
  • Bring a travel pillow, blanket, and extra sweatshirt to help you stay comfortable while traveling. You will also want to pack any disposable heat packs or ice packs, topical pain relievers, or patches that you may use to help manage pain.

Flying with Chronic Pain

Get the tickets!

The moment you know which dates you are going to be away on vacation, book your tickets. The earlier you book tickets, the better prices you can typically get them. Protip: using a site like Google Flights or Skyscanner can help you get the tickets you want for the best prices possible. If possible, try and opt for business or first class because those seats are more spacious and comfortable, but if not possible, opt for an aisle seat in economy. An aisle seat is best because you can quickly get up and stretch your legs as many times as you want without bothering your neighbor.

Skip the Line

Lines are probably the worst part about traveling. Waiting in line the get checked by TSA can take a while, but if standing still or for long periods aggravates your condition, applying for TSA Precheck may be an excellent option for you. 

Another option for skipping the line at the airport is if you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to stand in lines for long periods is to request a wheelchair or guide at the airport. Airports are required to assist those who need it, so be sure to give the airport 48 hours’ notice just so that they can arrange the assistance for you when you arrive and depart from the airport. 

Waiting for the Flight

While waiting for your flight, it’s a good idea to move or do your physical therapy exercises if you have any. If you need any assistance getting on the plane, now would also be an excellent time to let the gate attendant know. 

Know Your Rights!

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination of any passengers based on disability in air travel. The ACAA is international law, so it is valid on domestic and international flights. To learn more about your rights regarding the ACAA, click here!

Road Tripping with Chronic Pain

Utilize Rest Stops

Are you stopping to get gas? Get out of the car and move around! Every stop you make should be utilized. Driving or traveling in pain is not fun, but minimizing your pain by getting out of the vehicle is the best thing you can do for yourself. In addition to getting out of the car and moving, you can do any physical therapy exercises your PT may have given you. 

Traveling by Train with Chronic Pain

Traveling by train is going to be your best bet if you’re traveling with chronic pain because it gives you the most options to get up, stretch, and move around. Depending on where you are in the world, other than flying, traveling by train may be the quickest way to travel. For instance, bullet trains in Japan go about 200 MPH. Amtrak trains can go up to 166 MPH, so traveling by train may be the way to go! In the United States, Amtrak is the most popular train to use while traveling.

A Pirates Life for Me!

Are you going on a cruise? If you have trouble walking long distances or require the use of a wheelchair, be sure to request an ADA-compliant room and a room near an elevator so that you can quickly get to the fun of the rest of the cruise ship.

We can help!

At Forward Motion Physical Therapy, we want you to feel confident and comfortable while traveling. If you have an upcoming trip and would like to talk to a physical therapist about what exercises to bring with you, tips and tricks to make traveling easier, or if you aren’t sure if you can travel, schedule an appointment today by calling (973) 400-3730 or by clicking here

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