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How to Travel for the Holidays with Arthritis

By Brian Acton

Millions of Americans travel for the holidays every year, using every combination of transportation available to get to their friends and family. The Automobile Association of America is estimating more than 103 million Americans will travel in the year-end holiday season. And while traveling can be a stressful experience for anyone, arthritis presents a very specific set of challenges. Joint pain and discomfort caused by arthritis can easily flare up due to travel triggers. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some common sense tips to help make your holiday trip more comfortable and less vulnerable to arthritis pain. Prepare Your Medication Do you take medication to manage your arthritis? If so, your logical first step is to make sure you have enough medication to last through your trip. But during a trip, your medication can easily be left behind in a hotel or lost with your luggage. If that happens, you may need to refill your prescriptions in an unfamiliar place. You can keep a list of your medications and doses to prepare yourself in case of emergency. One last point: if you’re flying to your destination, you may want to bring a doctor’s note or prescription along with you. This can help if TSA staff has questions or concerns about your medication as you move through airport security. Bring the Right Gear If you ever use a cane, splint, knee brace, walker, or any other device to help you get around, make sure you bring it with you. It might be tempting to leave aids behind to lighten your load, but it’s better to have it and not need it than vice versa. Travel pillows are another essential for comfortable. If your gear is heavy or unwieldy, try finding smaller or lighter travel versions. Use the Right Luggage If you’re going to be walking around with your luggage, you may want to try fitting everything into a lightweight, rolling suitcase. Not only will this help you pack only the essentials, it will make the chore of lugging your possessions around more bearable (and easier on your joints). There’s also no shame in asking for help: for instance, don’t be shy to ask your hotel for help getting your luggage to and from your room. Be Sure to Get Up and Move Whether you’re driving, flying, or riding, sitting for too long without moving and stretching can result in stiff and painful joints. If you’re on a plane or train, try to get an aisle seat so you can stretch out a little and get up to walk occasionally. If driving, try to stop for some exercise along the way. Long sedentary periods can make arthritis symptoms worse, so you’ll want to get up and move to keep them at bay! …But Set Your Boundaries While we just extolled the benefits of activity, we don’t want you to overextend yourself. Don’t risk injury or flare-ups by trying to go too fast or too far. This applies both to the time you spend travelling and the time you spend at your destination. It might mean you have to skip that nature walk or ask someone else to carry heavy gifts in from the car. Try to get exercise, but not the wrong kind that could leave you in pain. In Closing There’s no reason your holiday trip with arthritis can’t be happy and carefree. But you’ll increase your chances of a great holiday if you prepare now to reduce the chance of debilitating joint pain. The key is careful planning, preparation and vigilance. Happy travels!
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