A Guide To Traveling With Acute Or Chronic Pain

woman with neck pain while travelling on a plane

Does pain stop you from traveling? Don’t let it.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

Every day millions of Americans have to deal with some form of pain. Whether it is acute or chronic pain, living with it every day can make life challenging – especially when it comes to traveling.

We know that when you have debilitating pain that makes movement difficult, it’s hard to get excited about going on holiday. Instead, it can be quite an anxious time.

But don’t worry. Help is at hand. We have proven tips and preventative measures to make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable. They just require a bit of planning.

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Before Your Trip

rushing packing not fitting clothes inside suitcase
  1. Discuss your upcoming trip with your physical therapist or doctor. 

If you are consulting a doctor or especially a physical therapist to deal with your pain, they can give you some excellent advice on how to avoid exacerbating the pain during your trip.

We’re always happy to discuss your concerns and help you formulate a plan. We can offer advice based on your chosen mode of travel – car, boat, plane, or train.

We can also work with you to create a customized plan to make the experience more comfortable and pain-free. 

  1. Take adequate time to pack. Don’t rush. 

Packing your luggage well in advance is the best way to prevent stress before your trip. Once packed, you can be confident that you have everything you need and can focus on other essential things.

For example, ensure your pain medication is in your carry-on luggage for easy access. If you have an exercise regimen that you need to follow while you’re away, carry a printout.

You never know how long your phone battery will last or the quality of Wi-Fi (if it’s even available). Also, ensure you bring enough medication, including prescriptions, to last for the trip with extra for any delays.

You should place all medicines in your carry-on luggage. If you need to carry any medical aids like a pillow or heating/cooling pads, keep them in a place with easy access.

Last but not least, pack any travel docs and a reusable water bottle in your carry-on luggage. Dehydration can worsen the pain, and plane travel can contribute to dehydration, so it’s wise to increase your water intake before, during, and after your trip.

Pack your suitcase as per your daily needs, limiting the number of clothes you take to what you need with an extra item or two for emergencies.

For footwear, select two pairs of shoes, including a pair comfortable for walking long distances, in case you need to do a fair bit of walking during the trip.

But, again, only pack what is necessary to transport comfortably so you’re not lugging too much unnecessary weight around. 

  1. Get your tickets beforehand.

It’s always a good idea to buy your tickets in advance to get the seats you want.

Then, look for a seat, whatever the class of travel, that gives you some extra space. Like an aisle seat, which makes it easy to get up and stretch your legs during a long flight.

If for any reason, you don’t get an aisle seat, you can ask your fellow travellers to let you occasionally stretch during the trip. If you explain your circumstances, most people are accommodating. 

  1. Have all large or bulky items pre-delivered to your vacation spot 

Carrying bulky items at the airport or to and from the hotel can take time and effort. Instead, choose to have them delivered in advance to the hotel you plan to stay at during your trip.

Some specialized travel companies do these types of deliveries, so make the most of these services and take any unnecessary burden off your shoulders. Only carry essentials or necessities with you in your carry bag. 

Traveling By Plane 

big queue at airport

Avoid the security queue:

One way to avoid the long security lines is getting a Global Entry Membership or a TSA Pre Check that helps to speed up security screening.

There is also the DHS’ Trusted Traveller Tool to consider. In addition, if you are experiencing chronic pain, you can seek assistance in the form of a guide or wheelchair.

Finally, while airports offer help, make it a point to confirm with the airline, followed by the airport before your trip, to double-check they provide a service.

To do this, get in touch with the airport and the airline a minimum of 48 hours before your flight, so the airport authorities can make all the necessary arrangements. 

Awaiting your flight 

After clearing security, you should get to your departure area quickly so you don’t have to rush last minute.

It would be even better if you could move around while waiting at the gate. Getting as much movement in before you board the plane can be helpful.

If necessary, inform the aircraft staff of your situation before you board so they help make your flight as comfortable as possible. 

  • Make the most of the amenities available: Most airlines offer special needs customers extra assistance or time per their requirements. Make the most of these features even if you do not require a wheelchair. For example, if you suffer from acute or chronic pain, you can seek extra help from airline staff if you state your unique needs. The airline staff receives special training to help travelers that need extra assistance. Also, check if your credit card or airline ticket offers access to the VIP lounge. These large and spacious areas have many amenities that make waiting for your flight much more comfortable. In addition, you can also make use of airport spa centers and book yourself in for a relaxing (pain relieving) massage before your flight. 
  • Further assistance: The ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) regulation ensures that travelers on domestic and international flights have various rights when traveling to, from, and within the USA. Therefore, updating yourself with your rights within the ACAA before you travel is wise.  

Traveling By Road 

back pain caused by travelling by car
  • Use every stop to your benefit: Traveling for long periods can aggravate pain because of immobility. This enforced immobility is even more pronounced if you suffer acute or chronic pain. Regular travel – without taking precautions – can worsen your condition in the long term. Therefore, it’s important to make the most of your trip’s stops. At every available opportunity, try to walk around to improve circulation in your limbs and the rest of your body. Blood flow tends to stagnate when sitting for long periods. During stops is a good time to use cooling or heating pads to help alleviate pain. If you do any physical therapy exercises like stretching, do them during stops too.
  • Things to note when hiring a vehicle: The first thing to keep in mind when hiring a rental car is to get one that is spacious enough to travel comfortably. Even if you must pay more, it’s worth the money, especially on long trips. Select a model that has an automatic opening trunk and doors too. 
  • Choosing a taxi service: There are many options available with car-pooling or taxi services like Lyft and Uber that cater to travelers with special needs having a comfortable ride. If these services are unavailable in your region, consider informing the standard taxi service that you need special facilities suited to your medical needs. 

Traveling By Train 

Regarding traveling long distances, trains are the most comfortable mode of transport. Why? Because they offer more sitting space and ample room to stretch, walk and stand up without bumping into any other traveler. 

Traveling By Boat 

The first things to check if you intend to board a cruise liner are that the ports the ship will stop at are ADA-compliant.

Either way, you will know what facilities are available when the boat stops at these ports. If you plan on chartering a private boat, you can share your medical condition with the company so that they are aware and make extra efforts to make your trip as smooth as possible.

If you use a wheelchair and are traveling on a cruise liner, select a room near an elevator so that it is easy to travel to and from your cabin.

Specifically, look for an ADA-compliant room that also offers wheelchair accessibility. 

Additional Tips For Travelling With Chronic Or Acute Pain

search result for chronic pain

The most important thing is to ensure you carry all the essentials to make your trip a hassle-free experience.

To do this, prepare a checklist that you can go through before your trip to make sure you have all the important things you require when on holiday.

This list should include all necessary travel documents, including medical records, prescriptions, and other required extras.

Always carry a list of medical prescriptions in paper form and a digital copy on your smartphone or any other digital device.

Keep your physical therapist or doctor’s number handy if you need to consult us while away. Plus, only pack what you need, and ensure adequate insurance coverage in case of any unplanned emergency.  

See how we can help you with our free discovery visit.

Andrew Vertson