The stress and tension that often come with a trip can add to physical discomfort and worsen joint symptoms. But with a little research and proper planning you can reduce pain and anxiety and have a pleasant journey.
1. Ask an Expert
Before you hit the road, talk with an occupational therapist or a driver rehabilitation specialist who can give you tips for preparing your car or choosing a rental car. There are rental car companies with special programs. For example, Avis Rent-A-Car’s Access program offers cars with swivel seats, spinner knobs and other hand controls. Check out the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality for additional information and resources.
2. Book Smart
Try to avoid long lines and airport congestion by traveling mid week, which tends to be less busy. Book a seat with extra legroom or an aisle seat so it’s easier to stretch your legs. Reserve an ADA accessible hotel room near the elevator or on the first floor. Don't forget to ask about exercise facilities, hot tubs or saunas, and a fridge in your room for medications.
3. Carry an Assistant
While a travel buddy is an obvious choice for shared driving and help with baggage and finding healthy food, assistive devices can be a great help, too. Examples include a folding cane or walker, travel chair, beaded seat cover, folding reacher or something as simple as an extra pillow for back support.
4. Be Med Ready
Keep all medications with you and not in checked bags, say experts. Pack medicines that require refrigeration, like some biologics, in a small cooler or in a Ziploc bag with an icepack. Buy a high-tech pillbox if you need medication reminders. Check ahead to find the closest pharmacy to where you're staying. You may even want to ask your doctor for an extra written prescription to take with you as a backup.
5. Control the Temperature
Hot and cold therapies are great for pain and stiffness. Stock up on heat wraps and pads, portable ice packs and topical cream. Choose hotels with heated pools, hot tubs and saunas.
6. Get VIP Treatment
Airlines are required to offer pre-boarding, wheelchair or motorized escorts through the airport to disabled passengers who ask. Call TSA Cares for security screening assistance that may prevent you from standing for extended periods. The TSA Cares toll-free help line (855/787-2227) provides information about screening policies and what to expect at security checkpoints. Once onboard, get help stowing your overhead bag from flight staff or a fellow passenger.
7. Choose Meals Carefully
Most airport and rest stop food choices are high-fat, high-calorie processed foods that promote inflammation. Carry healthy snacks, drink plenty of water and go easy on alcohol and caffeine that can aggravate inflammation. Need a break from just water? Try natural cherry juice that can help reduce inflammation – but avoid options with added sugar.
8. Keep Moving
Sitting still for long periods can cause stiffness. Plan road trips with time for rest stops. Move around on a plane or train when it’s safe. Too unsafe or too achy to stand up? Try simple stretches while seated, or other exercises like isometrics, which involve flexing and holding muscles for five to six seconds.