How to Travel With Arthritis

by Sheri_Oz

Don’t let arthritis stop you or your family from traveling. In fact, it is possible that travel will be good for you.

Different kinds of arthritis can affect children and adolescents as well as adults, and the affliction can be mild, moderate or severe. While you, or your affected family member, have probably learned how to cope with pain and limited mobility, you may be unsure about your ability to travel. There are some ways to take the needs of the sufferer into consideration in order to make the trip a success for all.

According to a study published in the journal “Arthritis Care and Research,” pain is reduced and quality of life improved for arthritis sufferers who maintain a reasonable level of physical activity and sense of self efficacy. Therefore, travel may even be good for you, so don't hold back if you want to travel, or if your job requires it.

Know Your Limits

Use What You Know to Cope Well on Your Trip

You have probably already figured out how much you can walk, stand or engage in other activities before your joint pain becomes too intense. Therefore, you probably know how much medication you need and how often you should rest.

These habits may be challenged during travel when your unfamiliarity with the sites means that you might not be able to anticipate physical stressors and pace yourself accordingly. Bringing along a light portable stool will help you get the rest you need in a wide variety of circumstances.

Take into consideration that you may need a full day’s rest the day after strenuous physical exertion.

Do You or Someone You Know Have a Physical Limitation that Affects Travel?

Helpful Items to Take on a Trip When You Suffer from Arthritis

Megared Krill Oil Soft Gel, 90 Count

Made from krill, as opposed to fish, there is no fishy after taste. The form of Omega-3 in these pills is easily absorbed by the body. Dr Oz recommends this product. If you keep kosher, these are not for you as they are produced from crustacians.

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Clif Bar Builder's Bar, Chocolate Mint, 2.4-Ounce Bars, 12 Count

Nutritious protein bars to supplement your diet if you cannot find enough to eat on your trip. In many flavors. These are not fillers, but food. Check ingredients to make sure there is nothing to which you are allergic.

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Medic-Air Back Cushion 18" x 15" Blue

You can use this inflatable cushion for your back, knees or any other arthritic joint. Relieve the pressure and you will rest better; inflation will start to decrease.

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My Personal Situation

I suffered knees injuries in both knees from a ski accident when I was 12. After the age of 30, I began to suffer in cold and wet weather and sometimes the pain would almost knock me out. But the doctors did not offer any solutions nor seem much perturbed by it. By the time I was 45, I was stiffening up after sitting for long stretches and I would wake up almost immobile in the mornings, hobbling along until my body would warm up. At this point, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and given a knee brace and told to take pain medication and that's it!

By my mid 50s I was starting to do less - could no longer dance, run, or walk for long distances. I was told I was a candidate for knee replacement surgery, but to delay it as long as possible since there are new improvements all the time. I still travelled freely, taking lots of pain meds with me and doing much less than I was used to doing.

I even went woofing (working as a volunteer on an organic farm) after telling my host that I was 60 and had stiff knees. He was not put off by that and I ended up quite good at grazing the sheep and goats (lots of time to rest).

Suddenly last summer, my arthritis got so bad that I could barely stand or move. Travel seemed a thing of the past. Then I heard of APOStherapy (see below) and it saved my life - without surgery, I am back to a reasonable level of functioning. I no longer take pain medication every day, but I have to be careful how much walking I do each day so as not to be unable to move the next day. I only occasionally get stiff knees when sitting for long times, but I still cannot dance.

Everyone is different and you use what you know about yourself to make your travel do-able and enjoyable.


Prepare in Advance for Potential Problems

If you have trouble with stairs, then book a room on the ground floor of hotels without elevators. You can also give yourself plenty of extra time to manage steps in bus or train stations by getting there well in advance of your departure time. 

When you have to sit for a long stretch of time, such as on the plane, long bus rides or a drawn-out meal at a restaurant, remember to take your pain medication about a half-hour before you anticipate getting back onto your feet or engaging in a activity involving your affected joints.

You can also bring small cushions to give these joints extra support while on the plane or bus and when sleeping.

Attention to Diet

Taking Omega-3 pills and avoiding food allergens can reduce arthritic swelling and pain, according to a review published in the journal, “Nutrition and Dietary Supplements.” 

Because you cannot be sure of the food choices you will have during your trip, it might be wise to bring Omega-3 pills and snack foods that are easy to pack. This way you can supplement the diet available to you while away from home if few choices are available to you because of dietary restrictions.

Have a "Can-Do" Attitude

A positive approach to your trip will enhance your enjoyment of it. Rather than regarding the arthritis as something that defines the sufferer as debilitated or limited, regard it as just another element of the trip that requires you or your family’s attention.

Further Reading on a Remarkable Treatment for Osteoarthritis

Get help without surgery.
APOS therapy saved my life. I was on a fast downhill spin into disability, seeing only surgery on the horizon and then these shoes came along and got me back on my feet.
Updated: 05/07/2014, Sheri_Oz
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Sheri_Oz on 05/07/2014

I am much better these days, WriterArtist, but I can have bad days like this where after a meal at a restaurant, I hobble out the door until the joints get loosened up again. Yes, I think when we share our stories we feel less handicapped by the difficulties and perhaps a bit more adventuresome.

WriterArtist on 05/07/2014

I need to be careful while traveling because my joints freeze if I don't move for couple of hours.
I only travel when I am okay and equipped with my medicines and ayurvedic oil for massaging joint pains. I remind myself that I have to get up every couple of hours to exercise my hands and limbs. You have brought up an interesting article as we all are becoming aware of this disease becoming increasingly present in more and more people.

Sheri_Oz on 04/26/2014

There are probably differences in how rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis are experienced, among other variables that influence people differently. My arthritis is purely my own initiative (can't blame genes for it) because of a childhood sports injury. At least I don't have to worry that my kids will be like me when they get older. Small mercies.

WordChazer on 04/26/2014

I thought I'd founded that club, Frank. Oh well, just goes to show. Sheri, I am beginning to see that arthritis and rheumatism are a very complex group of painful problems, triggers to each person's suffering vary and we all learn to cope in different ways. I find that if I sit still for too long my knees simply lock, which ratchets the pain index into throbbing agony and clicky joints that others can hear when I do get up. However, if I sit for an hour or so then walk for five minutes, then sit again, the pain on moving is less. I have associated medical issues in my family, a long history of arthritis, rheumatism and digestive disorders which manifest as circulatory irritation including joint inflamation.

frankbeswick on 04/26/2014

Sitting is very bad for stiffening the knees. I suffer a problem related to arthritis, anterior knee pain, which is felt round the edges of the kneecap. It is not arthritis, but it is felt when I rise from a chair or descend stairs. Walking is the best defence. but I need to lose some weight, but this is proving hard.

Sheri_Oz on 04/25/2014

Thanks, WordChazer. I find (with full-blown arthritis), getting up and walking around only means I suffer several times with stiff knees and not just at the end of the flight. Yes, standing in place is far worse than walking. But if I walk too fast (what used to be my normal pace), I suffer the next day. Isn't it interesting how everyone can experience the same kind of thing differently!
I agree that arthritis should not be declared when getting travel insurance. It is not likely to cause any need for medical care when traveling, anyway!

WordChazer on 04/25/2014

As someone with stiff joints (and potential arthritis in later life) I find that getting up and walking regularly when on a long flight or drive helps. We often road trip as a foursome with our friends, who drink a lot of water, so need regular compfrt breaks. That helps me too, as not only do I drink a lot of fluid, I then find that I do need comfort breaks too.

Flights are easier when I have more legroom, but unfortunately the level of coach to allow me a footrest or footstool is beyond my budget, so walking laps around the airplane to kick start my circulation is the only way. Unless your arthritis is such that you need a wheelchair, I would advise against declaring it in travel insurance, because the companies will double the price and then blink.

If I'm travelling in the UK by road, and know that the destination will mean a lot of walking, I have a cane. Otherwise my husband is well trained to having one shoulder pulled out of line when I lean on him and hobble at my worst. I walk better at speed, and nothing makes me hurt more than having to move at millimetres-per-hour in crowds or lines.

frankbeswick on 04/23/2014

Last night, when reading, I discovered that nettle tea is a palliative for arthritis. Use the leaves of young nettles, preferably the small ones at the top, and boil them in water, then drink the resulting tea. The sting disappears in hot water. Old nettle leaves contain oxalic acid and should not be used. Nettles' value comes the fact that' they are very rich in mineral salts, because their roots stretch deep into the subsoil and draw up minerals.

Not only nettles, but white dead nettle, which has no sting, is good for arthritis.

Mira on 04/22/2014

Omega-3 is something I do, too, for my back. Didn't think of food allergens though, as I don't have allergies. But maybe those are best avoided during travels no matter what, especially as the body is exposed to new allergens.

Sheri_Oz on 04/22/2014

Thanks, Frank. Apple vinegar and honey is wonderful against inflammation. However, there sometimes comes a point when such remedies no longer work. For some people it may be enough to stave off the ravages of osteosarthritis, but for others it is not.

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