Chronic Pain and Travel Planning

by Celeste Cooper, RN Health Professional

Whether it is for business, a visit with family or friends, or a long-awaited vacation, planning a trip has the potential to create angst in anybody. There are transportation considerations, reservations for accommodations, and plans for different types of activities, setting up an itinerary, and the other things we all do to help traveling go smoothly. But for those living with persistent, chronic pain, preparing leaves a smaller margin for error. That’s why we should identify potential obstacles and make sure we have the tools we need. That can seem complex, but it is familiar to each of us. As resourceful people we can carry on, pardon the pun, even when we travel.

But travel

Spending time with nature in our RV is a travel priority for me. I can be mesmerized by hummingbirds at the feeder and by chipmunks gathering pinions for their winter midden. I have the power to freeze time with a snap shot of nature’s canvas as I sit on nature’s veranda.

All of my devises and comfort measures are within the walls of our little traveling home. Sometimes, my plan needs a tweak or two, and that’s okay. Different strategies evolve and I learn new, sometimes better, ways to make it work. I wrote a short poem to capture my feelings about traveling:

But Travel by Celeste Cooper

Travel in the darkness

Travel in the sun

Travel in the light of being

But, travel.

Traveling takes energy. But, if we apply our skills, use our typical comfort measures, identify flare potentials, and relax and adapt, it’s worth it. The change of scenery and circumstances breaks the monotony and shatters the shackles of isolation, bringing balance to all aspects of our life.

Hazard signs

Chronic pain can cause a myriad of problems. Even though pain and fatigue are obstacles in their own right, they also serve as the foundation for a cascade of other potential roadblocks.

Some potential hazards to traveling – and planning for it – when you have chronic pain:

  • Anxiety.

  • Medications, i.e. planning and transporting.

  • Interruption in pain care routine.

  • Planning the itinerary.

  • Sleep changes, i.e. unfamiliar accommodations, schedule changes, excitement.

  • Confined, uncomfortable seating during travel.

  • Packing, i.e. prioritizing and planning for the medical supplies and devices, such as medications, TENS unit, ice and heat packs, snacks, compression stockings, braces and bolsters, and other special needs.

  • Lack of usual rest periods.

  • Transport and type of luggage.

  • Delays.

  • Poor waiting accommodations.

  • Navigating security.

  • Unusual, changed diet.

  • Feelings that you might be letting your travel companion down.

  • Adrenaline rush (and crash), causing a flare.

  • Assistance needed for special needs.

  • Change in activity, i.e. sightseeing, shopping, visiting.

Obstacles can vary depending on the mode of travel, the reason for the trip, or individual special needs, but when we confront them, we can navigate them successfully.

Enjoy the detour

Travel plans often meet with unexpected detours. It’s how we react to the obstacles we face that make the journey what it is. Whether we do it regularly for business or we are taking off on an adventure by air, rail, or over-the-road, how we prepare for it can make it quite pleasurable. OK, maybe not so much on the physical side (travel will not cure us), but it can certainly boost our confidence and fulfill other needs we have as human beings.

Expecting the unexpected and planning for success helps us manage the challenges of pain and travel. Expect to take pain on the road because it’s wherever we are, even more reason not to surrender our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves to it. We can have a balanced life if we plan accordingly.

I hope you enjoy beauty in the detour. Speaking from personal experience, they are often most rewarding.

In the next article on this topic, we will delve into how to prioritize and plan for success when traveling with chronic pain, including helpful tips, so stay tuned.

  • “Two roads diverged in a wood… I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

  • ~Robert Frost, American poet, 1874-1963

    Celeste Cooper, RN
    Meet Our Writer
    Celeste Cooper, RN

    Celeste Cooper, R.N., is a freelance writer focusing on chronic pain and fibromyalgia. She is lead author of Integrative therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and the Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain book series. She enjoys her family, writing and advocating, photography, and nature. Connect with Celeste through Twitter @PainedInkSlayer.