A friend of mine just had a bad flight–she’s got severe tendonitis in her shoulder, and she flew cross-country to visit her family for the holidays. But the celebration got of to a painful start (literally) because the flight made her shoulder scream.
Flying with joint pain sucks. Especially if you’ve got to fly coach. Contorting already aching bones and muscles and connective tissues into an unnatural position, then freezing in that position for hours at a time creates a recipe for agony. But sometimes you’ve got to fly whether your joints hurt or not–family gatherings, business trips, and out-of-town emergencies happen.
Here are some tips I’ve gathered to reduce joint pain on a plane:
- See or talk to your doctor or physical therapist before you go. Ask if there’s anything you can do to mobilize or immobilize your joint to make the flight more comfortable. Do you need a sling? An Ace bandage wrapped a certain way? A couple of key exercises to keep the joint from freezing or seizing or locking up? Whatever your medical pro’s advice–do exactly what they say while you’re traveling.
- BYO pillow(s), bolsters, or blankets. Whatever you need to prop, push, or place your joint in the most comfortable or ergonomically good position. Obviously, smaller shaped pillows work best ’cause you’re not going to have lots of space to work with.
- Got money or frequent flier miles? Upgrade to business or first class. You’ll have more space to create your own comfort.
- Ask for help with your bags. Whether it be your travel companion or someone from the airline or airport, do not try to drag, carry, or lift your carry-on bags yourself. It doesn’t matter which of your joints is hurting–hucking your luggage around will make it worse.
- Change your joint’s temperature. Get one or more heat and/or cold packs from a drugstore–these days they’ve got a variety of styles–get a kind that wraps snugly around the painful joint. I’m not the expert on your joints–again, ask your medical pro whether you need heat, cold, or both.
- During your flight, get up and walk often–like every half-hour. (Unless your joint foo keeps you from walking, of course!) Even if it doesn’t seem like walking would help–if your shoulder or elbow or wrist is the problem–getting up and moving will definitely help. Getting up and walking gets your blood circulating, moves and warms your muscles. And when you’re up, it can be easier to…
- Stretch. Stretch early and often. If you can’t stretch the problem joint, stretch everything else.
- Take your meds at least half an hour before you board the plane, then at the prescribed interval exactly, whether you think you need to or not. Why? Because flying will make your pain worse, and pain meds work best if you get them into you and working before the pain peaks.
- Stay hydrated. This is always a good idea when you’re flying no matter what your physical condition. And hey, if you keep properly hydrated, you’ll have a reason to get up (to go to the bathroom) regularly.
- Eat. If you can, bring your own food on board with you. Be sure to include plenty of healthy proteins–they help keep your blood sugar more stable and your body uses proteins to heal. Nuts are good. So are hard-boiled eggs (so long as your flight isn’t so long that eggs will go bad).
Have you got any other tricks you’ve used to deal with joint pain while you’re flying? Please post them here!