Long airport waits, sleepless flights and unfamiliar beds – travelling can take its toll on anyone. However, if you are living with arthritis, the very idea of the discomfort you might have to endure can be enough to put you off making those travel plans you’ve been dreaming of. But you needn’t completely put your wanderlust to bed. With a bit of careful research and a lot of forward-thinking, you can still enjoy a longed-for holiday without your arthritis getting in the way.
When we refer to arthritis, it’s important to be aware that this condition affects different people in different ways. In fact, ‘arthritis’ is a term used to describe inflammation within a joint, but there are a number of different conditions which can cause this, including rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative arthritis and connective tissue diseases.
Consequently, each person affected by arthritis will have different limitations and experience different types of and areas of pain. It’s essential when making travel preparations to have a conversation with your GP or health specialist to ensure you have realistic expectations of your trip.
Ensure that you have enough medication to last the duration of your holiday as well as packing a little extra just in case you are held up due to unforeseen circumstances. If you are booked onto a particularly long flight and are concerned about how best to manage any potential pain, your GP might be able to prescribe you something extra or provide advice as to which over-the-counter medication would work best in your specific situation.
Don’t forget to ask for advice if you are entering different time zones – this might throw off your medication routine – and always bring your prescription with you as well as a doctor’s note in case you need to try and get hold of more while you are away.
For more information, visit Arthritis - NHS Choices.
If you need assistance from the airline, be sure to call ahead and inform them of any special requirements. The airline can arrange wheelchair assistance and help with boarding if needs be as well as ensure staff members are prepared to help you stow your cabin bag and carry your luggage. Remember, if you have to change flights or switch airlines, you need to let each one know.
It is best to approach prospective accommodation in the same way – call ahead to check they are able to cater sufficiently to your needs and to find out details about the surrounding area such as if there is a decent public transportation network or a chemist and doctor’s surgery within close proximity.
You most probably won’t need it but it’s a good idea to write down the contact details of a local medical centre or emergency services number. Just knowing where to turn should your condition flare up or you encounter any problems can do wonders for your peace of mind.
Pack a few flight essentials to help ease any discomfort while travelling. Cushions and back rolls can provide support to your joints and help keep your body in correct alignment whilst in your seat. Those with longer legs might want to consider booking an exit row or bulkhead seat to take advantage of the leg room.
Hot and cold therapy can also help to alleviate joint pain and stiffness. Feel free to pack any heat pads, topical creams or portable ice packs that you feel might keep you comfortable on a long journey. Additionally, look into hotels or accommodation with saunas or heated pools for an exceptionally relaxing stay.
Finally, high-fat, high-calorie foods and alcohol can contribute to inflammation in the body – pack a few healthy snacks of your own to carry aboard and make sure you keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Research detailed in the 2014 review ‘Arthritis Research & Therapy’ found that rheumatoid arthritis can raise the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) on a long journey. This potentially life-threatening condition occurs when a blood clot forms in the veins of your legs due to lack of mobility.
Recommended advice to avoid DVT includes stretching your legs, feet and toes whilst in your seat and taking a stroll up and down the aisle every hour or so, provided the seatbelt sign has been switched off. There is also some evidence to suggest compression stockings can help prevent DVT and, if your GP believes you are in a high risk category, you might even be prescribed special anticoagulant medication for your flight.
It might not be the most exciting of purchases but a comprehensive travel insurance plan is an essential element for the holiday check-list. If you have an existing medical condition such as arthritis, you will need to tell the insurers about your condition in order to secure the cover you might need.
Here at Medical Travel Compared we can help you compare prices for pre-existing medical conditions such a Arthritis with over 40 specialist providers, get saving now!