Do you still travel with chronic pain?
The world is getting smaller…
Well no, actually the world is still the same size – we all just move around it a lot more.
Travel with chronic pain – is a daunting prospect.
The cramped seats of cars, buses, trains & planes – are not exactly ideal when you live with chronic pain.
Combine the discomfort with the fact that you are trapped in your seat for extended periods & you have a recipe for a pain flare that may last for days.
But by restricting ourselves to home – we can miss out on so much that brings joy & meaning to our lives.
The days of living in the same parish as your mother, grandmother, brothers & sisters has long gone for most families.
Have you missed out on a special event because of your pain?
Or do you see your family less now you are living with chronic pain?
Well – you are not alone…
In fact, one study has found that HALF of people with chronic pain have missed a social or family event because of their condition.
And almost HALF of people living with chronic pain have less contact with their family.
These statistics are a painful reminder of why chronic pain can so often lead to feelings of isolation & loneliness.
If you struggle to explain your chronic pain to loved ones you might like to read this.
So what can we do to reduce the impact of pain on our social life & treasured relationships?
If you are planning to visit family this Holiday Season – chances are you have to travel to get there.
You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself of the joy of a family Christmas just because you are living with pain.
That’s why we put together our 7 Tips for Travel with Chronic Pain:
1. Plan & Pace
OK, you might not have spent time in the army but if you plan your journey with a military precision you will really reap the benefits.
Just as you should pace your exercise regime – you should pace your journey.
Work out your baseline for extended sitting – (the longest you can sit before experiencing pain that will not disappear when you move).
If your baseline is 1 hour of sitting before you will have pain that lasts several days – sit for no more than 50 mins.
After that time get up & move around – movement will stimulate blood flow & increase oxygen & nutrients & remove toxins which will prevent aching & stiffness.
Take a walk, stretch, shake out.
Even 10 seconds of regular movement will go a long way to relieving your pain
When flying – get out of your seat & move around (walk/stretch). Choose an aisle seat to make it easier to move around. If you still end up seated in the middle – politely explain your situation to cabin crew & request they move you to the aisle.
When driving – make frequent stops. Plan it into your travel time & warn your travel companions that it will take longer than a standard journey.
Don’t be tempted to push through & knock the journey out in one hit – you may end up paying for it with pain for the entire duration of your trip.
2. Avoid stress
Stress & anxiety can cause tension in the body & amplify the pain signals sent to your brain.
Allow plenty of time to get to the airport, ferry terminal or train station.
Double check you have your passports, tickets, medication & house keys – anything essential for your journey (not the stuff you can replace on arrival).
Download a mindfulness app on your phone & listen to it if you find yourself feeling anxious or worried on the journey.
3. Pack right
Pack a travel kit that includes everything you need to make it through the journey:
healthy snacks like a low sugar protein bars to maintain blood sugar
plenty of water to flush out uric acid & lessen joint pain
tennis ball to discretely massage the area
books, music, puzzles – anything that will serve as a distraction from the pain
Take your hand luggage in a backpack & wear it on 2 shoulders so you can distribute the weight evenly on your back.
4. Pack light
Lifting a heavy suitcase can cause strain on your back, joints & muscles.
Choose pull-along suitcases on wheels. Be aware though that even if your suitcase has wheels you will probably still have to lift it (downstairs, into car etc).
Try to buy a lightweight suitcase & avoid packing heavy disposable items that you can easily buy at your destination (like shampoo or soap).
5. Lift carefully
Most injuries (like back strain) occur at the end of the lifting movement – so experts recommend breaking the action into smaller stages.
So when you are putting a heavy suitcase in the car – lift it onto a stool, then into the trunk.
Similarly, when on a plane, lift your bag onto a seat before trying to put it in the overhead locker.
Other important tips for lifting without injury:
use your leg muscles (not your back) so bend at the knees when you lift
don’t twist your back when lifting – turn your feet
carry heavy items close to your body
avoid one shoulder bags, but if you must carry one – swap shoulders frequently
6. Back support
The seats on most forms of transport don’t offer great back support.
Take your own in the form of lower back support – there are orthopaedic designed options available for a reasonable price.
If you forget to bring your own roll up a spare jumper or cardigan and place it behind you.
To avoid neck & shoulder pain try an adjustable neck pillow – there are many specifically designed for people with chronic pain like the one here.
7. Check your posture
Poor posture when sitting for extended periods can add even more stress to your back & joints.
Frequently check that you are sitting in the following position:
align your back with the back of the seat
ensure your lumbar (lower back) curve is supported
check your neck is in the middle of the headrest
both feet flat on the floor or a footrest
shoulders back & avoid hunching
use a neck cushion to provide support in case you doze off
Chronic pain has a ripple effect that touches on every area of your life.
The fear of pain stops many people living with chronic pain from travelling.
The fear of travelling means that people everywhere are missing out on special events & seeing loved ones.
Don’t let chronic pain stop you from travelling….& more importantly enjoying the special events that bring us so much meaning & joy.
Take simple steps like planning, pacing & packing carefully to reduce the likelihood of having a pain flare.
Do you have any tips that have helped you travel with chronic pain?
If you would like to learn more about holistic strategies to heal chronic pain click here.