Traveling with Back Pain
Pain Management Tips for Traveling
Whether you're on the road for business or pleasure, these travel tips will help you manage pain.
By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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The thought of travel can be daunting for someone living with chronic pain. Images of long waits in line, cramped and uncomfortable seating in cars or planes, and the sheer exhaustion of it all could lead a chronic pain patient to throw up his or her hands and become a virtual hermit.
There's no reason for that, though. Just because you need to manage pain doesn't mean you can't travel for pleasure or business or to see family and friends. You just need to plan a little more than the average person. These tips will help make travel enjoyable again for people who must manage pain.
Pain Management and Travel: Get Organized
People who need pain management can do much ahead of time to make their trip more pain-free:
- Book directly with your hotel.You might use a travel or hotel Web site to narrow down the choices of where you’d like to stay and learn about amenities, but place a call to the hotel directly to make your reservations. This way you can ask more questions about the hotel's services and make requests for special accommodations — like a room on the first floor or near an elevator — and learn about restaurants and attractions nearby.
- Think through your transportation.If you can, book a direct flight to your destination and avoid the stress of changing planes and long walks through huge airports. Invest in a sturdy suitcase with rollers to avoid lugging your bags. Let your airline know if you need special accommodations or are traveling with a wheelchair. When arranging for a rental car, make sure it has features like a tilting steering wheel and adjustable seats that can help you keep a comfortable posture.
- Make a list of what you'll need on the trip.Besides all your medications, include any creature comforts like a neck pillow, heating pad, cold pack, or blanket. Be sure to pack medications and all other pain treatment essentials in your carry-on bag.
- Prioritize your sightseeing.List everything you would like to do on your trip, then rank each item by importance to you. That way, if you have a pain flare-up you can start cutting activities from the bottom up. This also can help prevent you from trying to do too much on your trip.
Pain Management and Travel: Take Care of Yourself
Providing for your own pain management needs while traveling can improve your overall experience:
- Get plenty of rest.It's crucial to rest whenever you can and to sleep well, to give your body a chance to reinvigorate. Pace yourself and plan rest breaks throughout your day if needed to manage pain.
- Stretch often.Get up from your seat in the plane or car at least once an hour. If you don't get up and stretch a bit, you'll stiffen up and your pain will increase.
- Keep yourself comfortable.Wear loose-fitting clothing while traveling. Use a lumbar cushion or neck pillow when sitting for long periods in a car or plane. Plan your wardrobe for your destination; for example, be sure to bring warm clothing you can layer if it's going to be cold where you're headed, as cold can exacerbate pain sensation.
- Be open about your limitations.If you're traveling with family or friends, make sure they understand what your chronic pain management program entails. Make an agreement that if you need rest you will stay behind and care for yourself while they pursue an activity.
Even if you are living with chronic pain, with a little bit of planning, you can be well on your way to a dream vacation or just a long weekend to get away from it all and gain a renewed outlook on life.
Video: Travel Tips for Better Posture and Pain Management
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