Holiday Season Tips: Traveling With Chronic Pain

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Traveling with chronic pain

Holiday season is almost on us. It’s an exciting time, but traveling with chronic pain can be less than exciting to say the least. Living with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, stomach conditions and migraine headaches impacts how we live our everyday lives. The thought of enduring a road trip or sitting in cramped seats on a plane can make holiday travel seem impossible.

While chronic pain is challenging to live with, staying as active as possible may help you manage your pain. You deserve to have fun and to see your loved ones. Traveling with chronic pain doesn’t have to deter you from enjoying your holidays. Here’s what you can do to travel with more ease:

Prepare to De-Stress Before the Journey

Taking time off from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to enjoy the holidays is an excellent way to de-stress. But what about all the stress of planning the trip? All of the preparation needed when traveling with chronic pain can feel daunting. More stress means more anxiety and pain.

Traveling with chronic pain

  • Breathe and regroup. When you start to feel stress building up, stop and take a few minutes to regroup. Try sitting down and taking a few deep breaths. Think about which tasks are your priorities, and make a plan to complete them.
  • Pace yourself. As you prepare for holiday travel, pace yourself. You don’t want to wear yourself out. Take time to rest when you need it.
  • Ask for help. Call a friend and ask for help if you need it. You can enjoy time hanging out while getting things done at the same time.

Get Organized

Getting organized and staying organized can help you stay relaxed and focused. Make a checklist of the task you need to complete before you leave. Pat yourself on the back when you get to check off something.

Traveling with chronic pain

  • Consider what you need to keep your pain level down. Some things that you might put on the list include medicines, a neck pillow, a heating pad, cold packs or a blanket.
  • Think about transportation. Are you going to fly in a plane or drive in a car? If you’re flying, try to find direct flights that go straight to your destination. Booking a direct flight will help you avoid long layovers in the airport and having to change planes. If you have special needs (like use a wheelchair or need extra time to board the plane), let your airline know ahead of time. They can work with you to make traveling with chronic pain more manageable. If you’re driving in a car, make sure that the car you’re riding in has an adjustable steering wheel and adjustable seats.
  • Need a hotel? Unless you’re staying with family or friends, you might need a hotel room. Consider booking directly with the hotel if you need special accommodations. You can do all your research online, but call the hotel directly to book the room. When you talk with someone at the hotel, you can explain your needs, like having a room on the first floor or near the elevator.

Take Care of Yourself

You’ve prepared for your holiday travel and you’ve stayed organized. Now it’s time to enjoy your vacation. You know your body better than anyone else. Once you reach your destination, consider these easy tips to stay as pain-free as possible.

Traveling with chronic pain

  • Prioritize your activities. What do you want to do the most? What time of day do you typically feel your best? Make a list of the things you want to do and rank them from the most important to the least important. When you prioritize your activities, you’ll be able to do them during the best time of day for you, so you can maximize your fun. If you have a pain flare-up, you’ll know which activities you can cut from the bottom of your list.
  • Get plenty of rest. You’ve completed the prep work for traveling with chronic pain. Now it’s time to enjoy yourself, but that means you may try to do too much. Plan rest breaks during your activities, so that you don’t accidentally overdo it. Make sure you go to sleep on time. Getting a good night’s sleep helps recharge your body.
  • Stay comfortable and stretch often. Choose clothes that are comfortable such as tennis shoes and loose-fitting clothing. It’s perfectly fine to stop and put your feet up for a few minutes, too. As you enjoy your vacation, remember to do your stretches. Staying limber can help lower your pain level.

Have Some Holiday Fun

With a little planning, you can enjoy your holidays with your loved ones even if you’re living with chronic pain. Remember to be open about your needs and limitations with anyone who travels with you. Your family and friends will want to help you so everyone can have a great time together. From a week-long getaway to quick weekend trip, you’ll be glad you took some time to renew yourself.

Have holiday travel tips for your fellow spoonies? Let us know in the comments section!

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