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Traveling with arthritis: Planning a pain-free vacation

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital June 11, 2015 General Wellness

older couple walking along a beachPlanning a vacation is fun, but it’s not without its fair share of stress. From arranging transportation to making sure you don’t forget everything you need to ensure you’re traveling comfortably, being a vacation organizer is no easy task.

If you’re traveling with arthritis, or traveling with someone who has arthritis, there are even more factors to consider.

“The few extra steps that you take to prepare for your vacation in order to manage your arthritis will go a long way in helping you enjoy your trip and be more comfortable,” explains Allyson Fleischman, PT, DPT, physical therapist at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

Below, Fleischman offers a few tips to help you start your vacation off on the right (pain-free) foot.

Start planning early

The earlier you begin planning your vacation, the less stressful it will be. As soon as you learn you’ll be going on vacation, begin looking up hotel accommodations and transportation so that you can take advantage of any special services that may be available to you. This will decrease any added stress on your plate trying to organize things at the last minute. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get from place to place, and allow for rest breaks as you need them.

Don’t be afraid to upgrade

If it’s going to make you more comfortable, don’t be afraid to upgrade when you travel. You might need to pay more for your airline ticket or a larger rental car if you’re looking for extra leg room, but if it’s going to ease your pain and your mind, the cost will be worth it.

When you’re calling to book hotel accommodations or a rental car, ask whether any special rooms or rental cars are available with assistive technologies or devices. Some hotels and companies offer rooms or vehicles specifically for patients with arthritis or other unique physical needs.

Coordinate medication management with your physician

Make sure to meet with your physician before you leave for your trip to discuss any medication that you need to manage your specific type of arthritis or pain. Write down any questions that you have before your appointments so you won't forget anything when you're in front of your physician. It is helpful to find out from your physician if you should take any pain medications prior to starting the day to help yourself stay ahead of pain, as it may be an easier way to manage your pain than to address it once it has already begun.

In addition, make sure you have a list of all medications you’re currently taking with you, as well as the name and contact information for your physician, at all times during your vacation in case of a medical emergency. Know where the nearest pharmacy and hospital is, and know what to do in case you need to get to a hospital quickly.

Travel comfortably

Anyone with arthritis knows that medication isn’t all you need to keep you comfortable. Remember to pack other accessories like canes, walkers, heating and cooling pads, and cushions or pillows that will help you travel comfortably in the car or on a plane.

Also, be aware of the option to ride somewhere rather than walk. Using wheelchairs or shuttle services instead of walking long distances at airports or other travel depots may save you added fatigue and pain. Make arrangements ahead of time and see what options are available.

Keep moving

One of the best things you can do to prevent pain during your vacation? Keep moving! Opt for walking tours, swim in the pool or ocean, and enjoy the sights whenever possible to keep your joints from getting stiff.

If you'll be inside for much of your vacation or traveling for a prolonged period of time, ask your physician or a physical therapist about seated exercises you can try to ward off joint pain. Try to make regular stops at a rest area for walking breaks.

Although activity is important in decreasing joint stiffness and assisting with pain management, too much activity can also lead to joint pain and irritation. Listen to your body, take breaks when you need to and, most importantly, enjoy your trip!

Before you head out for vacation, make an appointment with your primary care physician or a physical therapist, who can answer your questions about making sure you're prepared for being away from home. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.