Unless you’re one of the nearly 50 million Americans living with some form of arthritis, you may not be aware of how prevalent the condition is. Easily the United States’ number one cause of disability, arthritis comes in several forms, from the common osteoarthritis to autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. No matter how severe your diagnosis, however, you’re in for chronic joint pain. In other words, veteran travelers might hear a prognosis of arthritis and think their journeying days are over. Arthritis doesn’t have to be the end of your time as a globetrotter. Here are some tips and tricks for traveling in comfort when confronted with an arthritis diagnosis.
1. Visit the Doctor Before You Fly
A few days before you’re scheduled to hit the road, be sure to visit your doctor. If you take regular injections, it might be a good idea to get one in advance of your trip. Letting your doctor know where you’re going might also yield some solid tips for managing your condition while you’re abroad.
2. Travel Prepared
Be sure to make a checklist of everything you’ll need to manage your condition, including any pills you might need to take. Make sure to bring a copy of your medical records, as well, so that you can be prepared to explain why you’ve got steroids in your carry on should the need arise.
3. Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance
If you’re traveling with a severe case of arthritis, consider getting some travel insurance to cover yourself in the event of a flare up when you’re in another country. A lot of health insurance providers don’t cover overseas issues, so make sure that you’re not stuck with a massive bill if your arthritis demands attention.
4. Pack Light
There’s no reason to exacerbate your condition by packing a metric ton of clothes into a suitcase that you’ll have to lug all over creation. Consider buying a rolling bag if you don’t already own one, and make sure to bring only the necessities when you head out on your dream vacation.
5. Travel When You’re At Your Best
If you’ve been living with arthritis for several years, then you probably know when your condition is at its best and when it’s at its worst. If the cold winter weather causes flare-ups, then be sure to travel in the summer, for example. To make the most of your trip, you’ll have to be honest with yourself about when you’re at your best and then plan accordingly.
6. There’s No Shame In Bringing Some Help
If you’re going somewhere where you’ll be moving around a lot, consider bringing some form of assistive device. A brace, a walker, a cane — no matter what you need to stay comfortable and healthy, it’s worth packing with your other belongings. There’s no reason to suffer just because you didn’t bring the right assistive device.
7. Take It Slow
Be sure to pace yourself when you’re on vacation. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll only cause problems with your arthritis, which will bring your vacation to a crashing halt. Be sure to leave space between your planned events so that you’re not rushed, and make sure to tackle only as much as you can handle. When you feel fatigued, slow down and rest. When you’re tired, stop.
8. Move Around, and Stretch While You’re Doing It
If your trip is taking you to far-flung locations, then you’ll probably spend a lot of time sitting on buses and airplanes. During these long trips, make sure that you take the time to stand and walk a few paces whenever possible. It’s also important to stretch your arms and fingers, as well, a task you can often accomplish while seated.
9. Try to Avoid Crowds When Possible
Standing in line and being jostled by large groups of people is never fun, even in the best of health. When you have arthritis, it’s worse. Before you travel, make sure to do some research on your destination to find out what time of year (and what time of day) is the least popular for the attractions you’ll plan to visit. That way, you can minimize your contact with crowds.
10. Bring Sunscreen
Even if you don’t have arthritis, it’s essential to protect your skin against the sun’s harmful rays, especially if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time. What’s more, some rheumatoid arthritis medications can make users especially sensitive to the sun, making sunburn especially possible.
11. Don’t Get Fancy, Wear Comfortable Shoes
If you’re planning to visit someplace new, the odds are high that — even if you don’t prepare for it — you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your feet. There’s no reason to punish yourself by wearing uncomfortable shoes. Make sure that you don’t try out new shoes for your trip, either. Put your trust in your favorite pair of comfortable shoes, and you can’t go wrong.
12. Stay on the Ground Floor (and Get the Right Amenities)
When you make reservations at a hotel, be sure to let the front desk know what you’ll require to stay comfortably. If your arthritis medications need to be refrigerated, request a small fridge from the hotel, or ask management to make appropriate accommodations. You might be surprised how willing the hotel staff will be to keep you comfortable and safe.
13. Try to Maintain Your Exercise Routine
If you have a regular exercise routine to help mitigate the impact of your arthritis, then make sure that you’re not using your vacation as an excuse to slack on your workout. Make sure that your hotel is equipped with an appropriate exercise room (or pool, if necessary) so that you can continue to exercise as usual.
14. Don’t Underestimate an Advil in Case of Emergency
When you’re on the move and you feel a flare-up coming on, or you begin to experience any discomfort, bring a travel pack of Advil with you. It may not pack the same punch as your regular medication, but some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can make all the difference at the moment. Never leave home without it.
15. Leave Yourself a Buffer Day
When you get home, don’t just throw yourself back into your routine. Give yourself a day to relax, unpack, and slide back into your home life. You just got done with a big excursion, so you’ll need time to rest. Think about sitting around and getting caught up on family gossip or your favorite TV shows. Your body will thank you for it.