Taking a long haul flight with Fibromyalgia can feel daunting. You may be asking, “does flying affect Fibromyalgia?”
In my experience, it does. It’s, therefore, worth taking the time to prepare for flying with chronic pain to minimise symptoms as much as possible.
In this post, I discuss pain management while travelling and share my tips for travelling with chronic pain conditions, such as Fibromyalgia. With some careful planning, it can be done!
Why FLying Affects Fibromyalgia
Flying isn’t easy for Fibromyalgia patients. The simple change in atmospheric pressure can be enough to trigger a worsening of symptoms for some people.
Plus, sitting up and having to stay in the same position for hours can be a painful experience. Not to mention, it is easy to become dehydrated, which can exacerbate symptoms.
However, there are a few tips I can share to help make travelling with chronic pain that bit easy to do. These are taken from my own personal experiences and I hope they help you too.
I’d also love to hear what your tips are in the comments below so please do share your thoughts.
My Experiencing Flying Long Haul With Fibromyalgia
I recently took a trip to California, a place that has long been on my bucket list. It was great to finally be able to go and I was super excited.
However, there was one thing I pushed to the back of my mind when I booked the trip… the getting there part. I’ve never been a fan of flying.
I mean, who is? Being stuck 35,000ft above the ground in an uncomfortable seat is not my idea of fun. I’m sure many of you feel the same.
Unfortunately, it was a necessary evil and I had not one, but two long haul flights to contend with. A 7-odd hour flight from Edinburgh to Philadelphia and a 6-hour flight from Philly to LA.
Oh boy, that’s a lot of time to be stuck in a seat! I learned a lot about flying with Fibromyalgia from this trip.
Tip 1: Try To Split Up Your Travel Where Possible
During my Cali trip, I found the first flight was bearable. However, the second became problematic for me because my knee decided it had had enough and gave me hell- ouch!
One tip I learned from this trip was that it would have been sensible to split up my travel over a couple of days. Trying to do everything in one day resulted in me suffering from a flare up of my chronic pain.
I’d, therefore, recommend allowing more time for travel and splitting up your journey wherever possible.
Tip 2: Make Sure Your Immune System Is Strong Before Flying
Air on a plane is partly re-circulated. I am personally quite susceptible to catching the cold if someone is coughing and spluttering on a plane.
It’s happened more times than could be considered a coincidence.
I, therefore, like to make sure my immune system is as strong as possible before flying. Strategies that help me include eating healthily (which you should do anyway) and boosting my vitamin c and zinc intake.
I’ll also take some echinacea and I find a product called Advanced Biotic from Vital Plan very helpful for strengthening my immune system.
A-Biotic contains herbs such as Andrographis, Berberine, Garlic, Cat’s Claw and Japanese Knotweed to help support immune function. It can be purchased directly from the Vital Plan website.
Tip 3: Wear Comfortable Clothes
A cotton dress, stretchy leggings, my comfy sneakers and a cosy cardigan was my outfit of choice for flying to California. Oh, and I wore a vest top under my dress instead of a bra.
There is nothing worse than clothes digging in and causing pain. Wearing loose-fitting clothing is a must if you want to be as pain-free as possible.
Aeroplanes can also vary in temperature and I can find that I am freezing one minute and too hot the next (maybe that’s just me!). Therefore, I dress in layers.
I also take some fluffy bed socks with me so that I can take my shoes off but keep my feet warm and comfortable.
Tip 4: Take Your Own Food
If you follow a particular diet to help with your Fibromyalgia, e.g dairy or gluten-free, then often you can ask the airline in advance for a meal that fits your dietary requirements. But let’s face it, aeroplane food sucks!
There is nothing to stop you from taking your own food on board (even if you don’t follow any dietary restrictions).
You can take most solid food on a plane. However, you need to make sure any liquids (including food in sauces) are placed in containers that are 100ml or less and are put in a resealable, transparent plastic bag for going through security.
There may be restrictions on meat and dairy products so double-check with the airport what is allowed.
Having plenty of healthy snacks readily available means that you won’t have to go long periods of time without food. This will help to regulate your blood sugar levels and prevent any crashes.
Tip 5: Pack A Travel Pillow
It’s a fact. Aeroplane seats are not comfortable.
Plane seats do not offer great back support and so taking a pillow in your hand luggage to place behind your lower back really helps with your posture and thus reduces pain. I really love the Tempur Travel Pillow.
You may also benefit from neck support, though the travel pillows that go around your neck aren’t always that great as they are so full that they can push your neck forwards. I wish I had looked into this more before I went because I probably would have invested in something like this.
Tip 6: Move As Often As You Can
Although a window seat used to be my preference, I now try to book an aisle seat wherever possible. This means that I am free to get up whenever I want to.
When flying, try to stretch regularly and if you are able to, get up and walk up and down the plane. Staying in the one position for hours on end is not a good move for someone with chronic pain and movement is so important.
Below are some examples of stretches that you may find useful. Remember, when doing these stretches, ensure you remain comfortable throughout and stop if you experience any pain.
Tip 7: Massage Sore Areas
I found it useful to gently massage areas that were sore and achy throughout the flight. If you are not able to do this yourself, hopefully, you will have a willing travel buddy to help you out.
Tip 8: Pack Pain Medication
Make sure to pack your usual pain meds if you take them. Before travelling, check if you need to provide a doctor’s note/certificate at airport security and also make sure the drug is legal in the country you are travelling to.
It may also be worth chatting to your doctor before travelling to see if additional meds may be helpful. And, if you don’t usually take pain medications it’s also helpful to speak to your doctor so that you have some to hand should you need them.
If you’d rather avoid pharmaceuticals altogether, do your research about other therapies that may be helpful. Personally, I find Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) very effective for helping to reduce my pain and use a device called the Oska Pulse.
If you are interested to learn more, you can read my review of the Oska Pulse here.
Tip 9: Prepare For The Impact Of Jet Lag on Your Fibromyalgia
Jet lag is not fun for anyone and when you mix jet lag and Fibromyalgia, it can really take it out of you.
My top tip is to make sure you plan for rest days when you arrive at your destination. How many rest days you need will be dependent on you and your individual needs.
Travelling from Scotland to the US was okay for me as I left in the morning and when I arrived, it was pretty much time to go to bed. I then slept enough to feel okay when I awoke the next day.
Coming home, however, was a different matter. Personally, I find travelling through the night is a killer, especially as I cannot sleep on a plane.
Leaving in the morning and arriving in the morning (the next day) is tough. I had one short nap in the afternoon and then stayed awake the rest of the day and went to bed at a normal time.
But, I had insomnia for about 6 days and found myself falling asleep during the day. My body clock was totally out of whack!!
I went back to following my own advice for getting a good night’s sleep and in time it worked. But you should prepare for this in advance and give yourself up to a week of rest when you get back if you can.
I also had a session of Reiki soon after I returned, which helped with my sleep.
What are your tips for travelling with chronic pain conditions, such as Fibromyalgia? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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