Summer is the season for travel. Whether going on a full-fledged vacation or simply visiting loved ones, most people take one or more trips every summer.
For people dealing with chronic pain, the prospect of travel can be concerning or even frightening. With a little planning, you can still enjoy the experiences and adventures of travel while keeping your pain under control.
Get pretravel treatments
If you have a specific treatment that gives you extended pain relief like an injection or nerve block, schedule an appointment with your pain management doctor prior to the trip. You want to leave enough time for the treatment to start working or to make certain there are no problems and to see how your body responds.
Stretching and moving
Extended periods in uncomfortable seats on a car or airplane can be especially hard on people who have spine, neck, hip, knee or shoulder issues. The best way to combat the stiffness and soreness is to take frequent breaks where you move and stretch. Walk up and down the airplane aisle or stand for a few minutes near the lavatory. In a car, stop for five minutes or so every hour and get out of the car and move around.
Stretches can be especially helpful for specific problems like sciatica. You can ask your pain management physician or physical therapist to recommend stretches to use when traveling.
Cold and warm relief
When you experience pain and you aren’t in the familiar setting of home, one good way to get quick relief is to apply a cold pack or alternating cold and heat. Ice and hot packs are typically accessible and inexpensive even when traveling. You can fill any plastic bag with ice and apply it to the painful spot. You can also buy thermal packs that heat up when you open them or you can bring your own packs that you can heat in any microwave.
If you are staying in hotels, the Arthritis Foundation recommends you select those with hot tubs, saunas and exercise rooms to do some stretching and relax the muscles.
Control eating and drinking
Whether in airports or on the road, finding healthy meal options can be a challenge. Don’t fall to the temptation to binge on fast food or processed snacks because that cause inflammation which is the underlying cause of many types of pain. Carry your own healthy snacks and go easy on alcohol and caffeine. Also, drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can help avoid headaches, arthritis flare-ups and many other types of pain.
Sometimes on vacation, it is tempting to be adventuresome and to try new challenges. If you have a chronic pain condition like a lower back injury, you need to avoid activities that could result in additional stress on that part of your body. For example, if you don’t surf at home, a vacation where you are dealing with pain issues might not be the best time to start.
Take extra medications
Unexpected delays and unforeseen layovers are synonymous with travel. Always carry more medication than you think you need and keep them in your carry-on and not in luggage that is locked in cargo or ends up at a different destination. If you’ll be gone for an extended stay, talk with your doctor about getting an extra prescription.
If you have any concerns about managing pain or other medical issues on an upcoming travel opportunity, talk about your situation with your pain management specialist to find out what recommendations he might have. Life is too important to allow it to be curtailed by pain.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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