Everyone needs a getaway now and then — a chance to break routines and gain new perspectives and experiences. However, traveling can have its challenges if you’re living with nerve pain (neuropathy), lower back pain, diabetes, or any other chronic condition that causes discomfort.
Here are seven tips to maximize your enjoyment and minimize pain during your travels. The good memories you make along the way can be well worth the effort.
- Get comfortable in your seat. If you’re traveling by car, make sure your seat is upright and you have good posture. If you have back pain, place a lumbar roll, rolled up towel or pillow to put against the small curvature of your back. This will take pressure off your lower back. When flying, choose a seat with more room for you to change position and move your toes and feet. Standing up briefly in the aisle also can help. If your feet are prone to swelling, consider wearing compression stockings to increase vein circulation.
- Take breaks when driving. With car travel, make frequent stops so you can stand up and walk around a bit. How often you stop depends on your health, but every two hours is a good idea for most people.
- Stay hydrated. This will help you feel better while you are traveling and when you arrive. Drinking water is best. Avoid sugary drinks and drinks with caffeine – these can cause anxiety, which can increase nerve pain. If your travel plans include activities that make you sweat, drink sports drinks with electrolytes and no sugar.
- Don’t let travel stress you out. Any pain is worse with stress. It changes the chemistry in your body and lowers your threshold for pain. Lower your stress level by taking your time, listening to music or an audiobook, being flexible, having a sense of humor and keeping an open mind to whatever happens. Set a new routine when you reach your destination and adopt a mindset that you can’t control everything.
- Make good sleep choices. Sleep can be a challenge when traveling, so control what you can. Try to stick to a sleep schedule, which will lower your pain intensity. Bring headphones or earplugs to drown out external noise. Avoid looking at digital devices at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.
- Don’t overdo your activities. It’s common for many of us to rush out the door to vacation feeling stressed and sleep deprived. Then, we arrive at our destination and want to do 30 or 40 percent more than we normally do. Be realistic in your goals and have some wisdom. If you weren’t active before, be cautious and don’t overdo it. Whatever your activity, take breaks. Follow the advice of your physical therapist or physician.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink. What you consume changes how your system handles pain. Limit the alcoholic beverages you drink. These can be inflammatory, especially if they contain sugar. This is especially true if you have diabetic neuropathy. Low inflammatory foods will help you handle your pain better. These include fruits and vegetables, as well as whole foods (rather than processed foods). Avoid inflammatory foods containing sugar, caffeine and, for some people, gluten. Look for restaurants with healthy food selections. Learn more…