by Marissa Horanic
No matter how you’re traveling, being in a cramped seat of any kind for an hour or longer can be a real drag. It can be pretty boring and rather uncomfortable (at least less comfortable than your couch or fluffy pillow mountain on your bed). Although it’s not necessarily the best part, the ride to and from our travel destination is a major part of traveling. “Traveling” is actually the word used to describe going from one place to another… so I guess it makes sense that the “travel” part of traveling takes up a significant portion of your trip.
Long rides can be hard on anyone’s body, especially those dealing with chronic pain in their daily lives. Here are some tips for a more comfortable trip!
- Always dress in layers.
Any method of travel can get chilly, or too warm. Chronic pain is rough enough on its own, but adding temperature troubles makes a trip even more uncomfortable. A warm jacket or hoodie can keep you super toasty, and can also act as a makeshift pillow against a window or an arm rest.
- Don’t let internalised ableism hold you back from much needed comfort — use elevators and wheelchairs before your ride if the services are available.
You can reserve wheelchair service for free when purchasing a flight ticket. Whether you reserved wheelchair service in advance or not, when checking your luggage, let the agent know that you need to use a wheelchair. Airports are big, lines are long — Don’t set yourself up for extra pain when you can avoid it. All train stations have elevators, so you don’t need to struggle with your luggage up and down stairs or escalators. Normally, elevators aren’t readily or publicly available. When you arrive at the station, let a worker know that you’ll be needing elevator assistance for your trip; include your train number, gate number, and departure time. Not overworking your body before your ride will make your ride much more comfortable.
- Bring items to make your ride a little more comfortable.
These items can include special pillows, blankets, back support wedges, or whatever works best for you and your body. Weighted blankets can be great for restless leg and joint pain, while shaped neck pillows can provide support for your head and neck in not-so-greatly designed seats.
- Pack all your meds in your carry-on/most easily accessible bag.
Don’t forget anything you take as-needed. Chances are, if you have chronic pain, your as-needed meds are the ones you’ll need the most on your ride. The least-bulky way to do this is by using a pill organizer that holds a few days’ worth of doses. Unpredicted layovers happen, car batteries can die, busses and trains experience delays. You never want to be away from your meds.
- Move your body.
On planes and trains, you can typically get up and walk around or maneuver yourself to a space to stretch. Try to do this every 30-60 minutes to regulate blood flood and relax any stiff muscles or joints. In a car, you and whoever you’re with can take frequent stops to do just the same. When riding on buses, this can be a little more difficult. You can practice some gentle stretching techniques from your seat, or take advantage of the short trek to the restroom to get your blood flowing.
- Stay hydrated.
Bodies get achy when dehydrated, so you need to make sure you can get more than a little cup of water during your ride. Whether this means packing an empty reusable water bottle, an unopened water bottle, or a liter or two of IV fluids, come prepared to hydrate.
- Keep some stick-on, disposable heating pads handy.
Heat therapy can do wonders in the realms of pain relief. These stickies can provide the warm relief of a heating pad without requiring extra batteries, pesky cords, or an outlet.
- Last but certainly not least, plan ahead.
Book tickets for your ride as early as possible, to ensure you can get a seat that best fits your needs. Window seat, aisle seat, close to the restroom, etc. If traveling by plane or train, arrive early to check any luggage that can flare your pain. Anything too bulky or too heavy for you to handle comfortably should be checked. Your body will appreciate it.
As always, try to relax as much as you can and go with the flow of your body. Never be afraid to ask for help. And, most importantly, focus on your destination and you’ll be there in no time!