Next week I am leaving to go on vacation and don’t get me wrong I love visiting family but I hate traveling! I don’t think I know someone who hates traveling more than I do and now since living with chronic pain, I hate it even more! There are so many things that I have to take into consideration when traveling that most people don’t have to consider and to be honest it stresses me out. All I can think about is my pain levels and how I probably will not be able to manage them as effectively as I normally do but I will still need to act like everything is great when I feel miserable! Chronic pain is unpredictable and no walk in the park but it doesn’t have to ruin the fun time you will have with your families. Here are a few tips to help keep your pain bearable so you can have fun just like everyone else!.
Stay Hydrated- Everyone knows it’s important to stay hydrated but did you know it’s even more important if you live with chronic pain. If you become dehydrated you will cause migraines and increase your pain levels so don’t get dehydrated. Fill a water bottle and drink it throughout the day so you stay hydrated and keep your pain bearable. Migraines are debilitating and can take a while before it goes away so do your best to prevent them. It can be frustrating to have increased pain levels because of something you could have prevented.
Pack all your meds and backups- When you have chronic pain you generally rely on the medication your doctor prescribed to help control the pain so you want to make sure you don’t forget any medication! Chronic pain is unpredictable and although the medication your doctor prescribed may control the pain most of the time sometimes it may fail you and in those instances, you want to be prepared! Make sure you not only bring your prescribed medication but also the back-ups because you can never plan for a bad pain flare. You may not end up needing the backups but if you do and you forgot them you are going to be really mad at yourself because there will be nothing you can do for your pain until you get home and at that point, your pain may have already gotten unbearable to where your backups wouldn’t even work!
Verbalize your pain- When you have high pain levels it can be so tempting to tell our friends and family that everything is okay when it isn’t! Chronic pain sufferers don’t want to be judged and seen as weak because often times our pain is invisible and we are so we get into this habit of telling people everything is alright. When you are on vacation and having a bad day it’s so important you verbalize that pain because if you don’t no one will know you aren’t feeling well and will just continue with their regular plans. Your friends and family, aren’t mind readers and won’t judge you on a bad pain day but if you don’t make it known that you are struggling they can’t adapt plans to make it easier and more enjoyable for you.
Get comfortable– Airplane rides can be a chronic pain sufferers’ worst nightmare especially if your destination is twenty hours away! They still beat a long road trip but still aren’t fun if you constantly have tense muscles! Bring a neck pillow or a blanket to help you stay as comfortable as possible so you can keep your pain bearable. Having unbearable pain levels is frustrating and horrible any other time but when you are on a plane and can’t really do anything about it makes it ten times worse!
Get moving- When I am in a situation where I can’t really move a whole lot my pain increases because low-intensity exercise is how I manage my pain. When I am on vacation doing a Pilates workout is not going to be an option but getting up and moving every couple of minutes is. If exercise is how you manage your pain then make sure that when you are on vacation you do your best to be as active as possible. You may not be able to hit the gym when you’re on vacation but you can do some activities like walking because some activity is better than none!
Hot baths- If you suffer from having muscle pain or having tense muscles all the time like I do the thought of getting on a plane can be terrifying. Taking a bath the night before or the day of (depending on when your flight is) can help relax your muscles so you’ll have low pain and be comfortable during your flight.
Stretch- Long flights can make anyone stiff but for someone with chronic pain and already has tense muscles it can become more of a problem. When your muscles are super stiff that increases pain levels and will make it hard to enjoy yourself while on vacation. Create a five to ten-minute stretching routine that you can do when you wake up or before you go to bed because it will make all the difference in the world in improving your mobility and helping you feel better.
Be mindful of your nutrition- If you have chronic pain you can probably agree that some foods worsen pain. For me, it’s alcohol and large amounts of dairy and although I may have an occasional splurge I try to stay away from these things most of the time to prevent a bad pain flare! Chronic pain is constant and doesn’t take a break and going on vacation is no exception! Make a food diary and document everything you eat so you know what types of foods make you feel good and what ones cause a pain flare! Do your best to avoid these things when you’re on vacation and when your not because that is what will help you feel better. You can have fun on vacation with chronic pain but if you are letting your nutrition lack it will make it difficult to have fun because you will feel just awful.
Get proper rest– When you have migraines you will have a love/hate relationship with sleep! Some weeks you will sleep a lot while others you will get on average of four hours of sleep a night. I don’t generally sleep well if I forget to take my migraine medication(which has never happened) but it’s important while on vacation you try and get proper rest! Insomnia will increase your pain levels and anyone that lives with chronic pain knows that sleep is important but when you live with pain it is even more important. When you have unbearable pain levels because of insomnia it can be aggravating and take forever to get those pain levels down. (sometimes weeks) Do your best to stick to a sleeping schedule like you normally would and don’t pull a week of all-nighters!
Traveling with chronic pain can be difficult because what you would normally do to manage your pain at home you may not necessarily be able to do on vacation. Know your limits and do your best to not push yourself too far past them. Pacing is important when your at home and when your vacation because chronic pain does not rest and if you overdo it one day you’ll take all the fun out of your vacation. If you have chronic pain you can have fun on vacation but if you are not mindful of your pain levels you will spend more time trying to trick people into thinking you are having fun and less time actually having it! You know your body better than anyone and if someone is doing something you know will increase your pain levels then don’t do it. Your friends and family won’t judge you if you need to sit out of an activity because of pain but will understand. You may be enjoying something at that moment but if you are pushing your body too far you will regret it later! Chronic pain sufferers, how do you manage your pain on vacation?