Having arthritis does not mean that you have to live your life in a cocoon. Millions of people who suffer from degenerative osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are reluctant to visit friends and relatives because traveling for long periods can make their joints stiff.

While carrying luggage, transfers and cramped seating can contribute to pain and fatigue, here are some handy tips that you can use to minimize the stress on your joints whether you are traveling by plane, train, bus, car or even on a cruise ship.

Traveling by plane – Try to book a nonstop, direct flight to eliminate transfers and avoid traveling during peak times as it is less stressful. Ask for a seat in the exit row or bulkhead as these have more legroom. Check your large luggage in so you do not end up carrying it.

Once on the plane, inform the flight attendants that you have arthritis and that you may need to get up periodically to stretch during the flight. Use the airline pillows to support your back and neck throughout the flight. Carry medications with you in case your luggage gets lost or delayed. Also carry copies of your medical prescriptions and your doctor’s telephone number to minimize hassles and delays when going through customs and security.

Traveling by train – Be sure to pack lightly if you think you might be unable to get any assistance getting your baggage on and off the train. Enquire whether porters will be available to help you with boarding and exiting the train. Amtrak has a special service desk where you can make requests for help. It is best to reserve an aisle seat near the restroom so you can do stretch whenever you feel that your joints are coming stiff. Pack a light lunch or take some snacks so you do not need to walk to the dining car to get something to eat.

Traveling by bus – Consider scheduling your trips during weekdays, when fewer people travel and buses are less crowded. Try to book your trip with as few transfers as possible. Bring a pillow or cervical collar with you to make naps more comfortable. Take along snacks or small meals in case it is difficult to get off the bus at food stops. Try simple stretching exercises throughout your journey to avoid stiffness.

Traveling by car – Traveling by car offers you the most freedom, as you can set your own schedule and stop whenever you like. When renting a car, ask about special features like power-steering, cruise control and lift-up door handles. These will all make your journey less stressful and place less pressure on your joints. To prevent this, stop every hour and a half and do some light stretching exercises.

Taking a cruise – Before booking a cruise, ask about the ship’s design and accessibility. Some cruise ships offer gentle exercise classes, which can help minimize joint stiffness. If disembarking at stops is difficult, be selective when you choose to go ashore. It is important to rest and not overdo it, so use your time while the ship is sailing to regain your strength and energy. Take massages whenever they are available.
Keep an eye on your diet – Whenever you are traveling it is important to keep a close eye on your diet. You will become tired and stiff and this can lead to joint pain. One of the best things to take with you is omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplements. Omega 3 is an excellent anti-inflammatory that can help reduce stiffness in your limbs and control the pain. You can find more information about the preventative benefits of omega 3 fish oil on my website and see why it is always one of the first things I pack when I travel.