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As you get older, you expect to have to cope with more aches and pains as the years gradually take their toll on your body. But for some people, pain is a lot more than a bit of discomfort or stiffness. For people suffering from conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, pain can become a constant and debilitating fact of life, impacting on more or less everything you do.
That certainly includes travelling. One of the most difficult things people suffering from chronic pain have to deal with is the way it can, if you’re not careful, take away so many of the things you used to love doing. Active and enthusiastic travellers can quickly find they are stuck at home, frustrated and unhappy because the thought of jetting off on a new adventure seems too much to cope with.
People suffering from fibromyalgia, for example – a long term condition that causes chronic pain in soft tissues all over the body – have described the prospect of travelling when symptoms flare up as inducing feelings of stress, fear and dread. That’s enough to convince anyone to abandon all plans for global exploration.
But at the same time, part of the battle against conditions like these is finding ways to maintain your quality of life. Yes, that involves managing symptoms. But setting your sights on that family vacation, or a dream adventure with your partner, or visiting relatives on the other side of the world – they are the sort of things that give you the inspiration to take back control.
Travelling with conditions like fibromyalgia and arthritis can be done and is done. Here are some tips from people who have been there and done it.
There are aspects of travelling which are inherently stressful. Long journeys, queues at airports, rushing around trying to finalise itineraries in a hot, unfamiliar place all tire us out and raise our adrenalin levels as our bodies and minds try to cope. Biologically speaking, that is when you are under stress, and that is a huge risk factor in triggering pain symptoms.
The more you plan ahead, the more chance you have of keeping those stress levels under control. Contact your airline in advance, explain your condition and arrange priority boarding and security clearance to avoid airport queues. If mobility is an issue for you, you will also be provided with a wheelchair and personal assistance. If possible, book all trips and arrange your itineraries in advance, so you know exactly when and where you’re going. A great tip is to get tickets – including things like City Passes for attractions – mailed to you in advance, so you don’t have to make journeys to pick them up when you arrive or queue at ticket offices.
The last thing you want to be doing if chronic pain is an issue for you is hauling huge suitcases around with you everywhere you go. That will only tire you out and further raise your stress levels. Consider things like choosing accommodation with laundry facilities so you can wash clothes rather than carry enough clean outfits to last your entire trip. Check as much baggage as you can into the hold on a flight and take the minimum you need onto the plane. Invest in good quality suitcases that are strong but lightweight and have wheels.
One thing you certainly can’t do without are ways and means to ease your symptoms if they flare up. It’s a good idea to visit your doctor anyway to get their advice on your travel plans, but if you are on any prescription medication, you will need to get a script to dispense the full amount you need for your trip. Take a prescription with you just in case you lose any and need to top up, and also take a letter from your doctor just in case anyone asks questions about why you are carrying quantities of painkillers around with you.
Many people with arthritis and fibromyalgia swear by hot and cold presses for helping to take the edge off pain. They reduce swelling and, by alternating, stimulate blood flow to a problem area. This is especially important on a flight when you won’t be able to move around much and you can easily stiffen up. Again, speak to your airline, and arrange for hot and cold packs to be stored appropriately by the cabin crew ready just in case you need them.
Finally, it’s essential that you plan for the eventuality that your symptoms might get so bad you will need to seek medical attention while you are away. The key here is to have the right travel insurance, because you will have to pay for whatever medical care you get and, certainly if you end up in hospital, it won’t be cheap.
Standard travel insurance policies do not cover you for pre-existing medical conditions, and if you tell many providers that you suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis or similar conditions, they may well decline to offer you cover at all. Fortunately, there are specialists out there who cater for travellers with a wide range of medical conditions, and will put together a policy to suit your specific needs. To learn more about travel insurance for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, you can find more information here.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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Sonia PeopleDecember 4, 2019
Great article to remind us to think about this before we take off.
Packing a support or brace could also help on holidays that require a lot of walking or more physical movement like skiing or hiking.
KathyDecember 6, 2019
Yes these types of medical items could be useful for people that are engaging in high physical activities.