Traveling to visit loved ones for the holidays can be stressful for anyone but that’s especially the case for those suffering with chronic pain. We might be worried about lugging around suitcases in crowed airport terminals, sitting for extended periods of time in stuffy cars, lying on relative’s creaky pull-out sofa beds, and all that sleep we probably won’t be getting.
That of course can lead to what we all don’t want. An increase in pain and potentially ruining our holiday vacations.
Travelling has always been a challenge for me but with a little planning, I’ve been able to manage my pain more effectively throughout my vacations.
Here are some helpful tips to make your next holiday vacation less stressful, less painful, and a lot more enjoyable:
1. Pack a few days early.
Packing at the last-minute leaves you without any time to remember what you forgot to pack or what items that you might have needed to buy for your trip. This added stress can trigger an increase in pain. However, when we pack in advance, we can take off that mental burden of trying to figure out what we almost forgot.
And the best part in packing early is that we are able to rest and recuperate our bodies before we take the actual trip.
2. Take inventory of your pain management
Will you have enough of your pain medications to last you through the entire vacation? Will you need refills? If so, this is the time to call your doctor.
Besides pain medications what other supportive devices that you use at home such as a portable TENS machine, ice packs, heating pad, neck pillows, braces, creams, etc. will you bring?
3. Alerting your travel companions to your conditions/ Carry a wallet medical card.
Make sure that you tell your travel companions about your medical conditions. Let them know what they should expect and what to do if something were to happen.
Wallet medical cards are also a wonderful thing to carry especially if you are travelling alone. Wallet medical cards provide spaces for all of your key medical information like allergies, medication, medical conditions, etc.
There are various sites on the internet where you can download templates to create your own.
This is one that we like:
4. If you’re staying at a hotel, book directly.
Call the hotel and ask them about their amenities. Be sure to specify the accommodations you need for example, wheelchair accessible, extra pillows, shower grab bars, etc.
Medications – Some people take their medications 1 hour prior to their travel time. I have done this and it does help. Check with your doctor to make sure that this option is ok for you.
Heat/Ice – Purchase inexpensive heating and icing options like heat wraps or warm or cold gel packs and apply them while traveling.
Have someone help you pack the car the night before.
Plan to stop every hour for a few minutes so that you can get out and stretch. If you don’t get out and stretch a bit, you’ll stiffen up and your pain will increase.
Try and book a non-stop flight. This will help reduce the stress involved with making connections and hurrying from one crowded terminal to another during the busy holiday season.
When possible, during the flight, try to get up to go to for a walk to the washroom and back. Also, if there is room at the back of plane, you can do some quick stretching. Remember, you have to keep those muscles moving to avoid getting too stiff.
6. Get enough rest
After packing and traveling a long way, you’re probably ready to take a break but if you’re standing on the porch getting ready to be smothered by the welcoming arms of relatives full of festive holiday cheer, lying down might seem impossible.
Remember, it’s ok to tell family members that you need a “time out”. Not everyone will understand what you’re experiencing, but they should know what your needs are. It’s not going to be possible to do everything. You will enjoy your holiday vacation with your loved ones so much more when you are not in pain. While it is important to do what you can, pushing yourself beyond what you’re capable of could result in more pain.
Listen to your body!
Traveling with chronic pain can be a challenge but with a little planning, it can be done! We hope that you can make the most of your holiday travel and as pain-free as possible.