I haven’t been so open about having fibromyalgia. I have had it for roughly a year and have learnt how to live with it. Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness with tenderness and muscle pains spread all over the body. The disorder is considered as incurable, but symptoms can be prevented.
I was travelling from Ecuador to Norway in June 2016. I didn’t look forward to the long flight. Sitting for a long time makes the pain worse. The whole trip was painful and I felt it after sitting on the plane for only one hour. When I was in Norway I decided to fight this pain once and for all.
Here are some top tips to travel with fibromyalgia and have a great time instead of being in pain
- Good shoes are key
I started with buying a pair of shoes called Gaitline. The shoes straighten and balance the feet and the body will be in symmetry. I was born with leaning feet and have had lots of back and neck problems all my life. This shoes were perfect for me and I felt less pain right away. My body felt straight and they were comfortable to walk in. I try to use it all the time, even walking inside
Your feet were made for walking, so take good care of them.
Sore, swollen feet will take the fun out a trip fast. Ditch the flip-flops and wear good shoes. At the end of the day, pamper your feet by a nice soak, massage and lotion. Put your feet up and give them a rest.
- Walk a Lot
Everything was different when I took the same flight back from Norway to Ecuador. For the two months I stayed in Norway, I walked up to 35 hours a week at work. I thought it will get worse after walking so much, however it seems like my muscles needed more activity. If you are going on a trip and you know you will walk a lot, I recommend to train weeks before you go! Walk a lot and activate those muscles!
- Don’t focus too much on the pain
I know how much it can hurt and we all got good and bad days. I recently read the book Healing back pain by John Sarno, where he highlights that chronic pain is in the brain and the more you focus on it the worse it gets. He says that our back muscles are incredible strong and we should not be afraid to use it if we experience pain.
If you have got the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, you should already have taken an x-ray of the whole body to see if there is something wrong with the bones. If everything seems fine with the bones, you shouldn’t worry about using it!
- An army marches on its stomach and so do you.
Experience new cuisines one meal a day and try to stick with simple fare for the other two meals. Trying out new foods is great but don’t be so adventurous that you ruin your trip with an upset tummy. If possible, take along your own instant oats, breakfast bars, and nuts and dried fruits to eat for breakfast. Be sure to drink lots of water.
- Don’t seize up—do your stretches.
If you are doing a lot of traveling by plane or car, you may be required to sit for extended periods of time. If driving, stop every two hours for a 10-minute stretching break. If you are on a plane, take a walk to the restroom. You can also do some stretches in your seat. Stretch your arms and neck. Wiggle your toes and ankles. With your feet flat on the floor, lift your heels and tighten your calf muscles. Don’t forget to do your daily routine of stretches in the morning and before bed.
- Sleep and rest enough
My pain used to be on top just before going to bed. My whole body and all of the muscles used to clench while sleeping and I woke up exhausted. I got a specific relaxing medicine by my rheumatologist to promote deep sleep and relaxation of the muscles. It is recommended to sleep at least 8 hours a night. It is not easy to sleep on a plane when you have fibromyalgia. There are products to help you relax (more about those further down the post). And if you still can’t sleep, don’t forget to get up of the seat and walk around the plane
- Eat anti-inflammatory
I know it is really tempting to drink red wine, coffee or sodas on the plane. Those drinks will make you dehydrated, which will make your symptoms worse. There are many articles saying what people with fibromyalgia should eat or not. Here are some of it:
Food to eat: Berries, garlic, sweet potatoes, ginger, healthy fats, lemon, broccoli, beets, pineapple, salmon, turmeric, coconut oil and herbal teas like ginger or chamomile tea.
Food to avoid: Sugar, artificial sweeteners, gluten, nightshade vegetables, processed meat and fast food
- Research your destination
Your vacation should not be stressful. Plan ahead so you don’t have to stress yourself up and ruin your holiday with more pain. A good tip is to book a hotel with a hot tub or a swimming pool to relax in. If you are sensitive to noise make sure you book a place that is quiet and have comfortable beds.
It is also a good idea to consider your luggage – don’t pack too much and avoid shoulder bags and backpacks, suitcases are better and ask people to help you caring it.
- Visit a rheumatologist before you go
I am so happy I decided to go to a rheumatologist. After going to so many doctors, traumatologists and other specialists. It felt like I didn’t get anything out of it before I went to a physiologist that recommended me to go to a rheumatologist. It didn’t take long for the rheumatologist to specify that I had fibromyalgia and how to make the symptoms better. You can visit a rheumatologist if you only need tips on what you should do in terms of your travel and preparing for that.
- Stretch out
My rheumatologist told me to stretch shoulders, neck and legs multiple times a day, as well as practice yoga. Here are some streches you should try out every day. You can do many of these stretches while you are on the plane or on a bus. I suggest to get up and walk every hour to prevent stiffness.
- Bring your meds!
Avoid the stress of trying to find medications while you are travelling. Bring all of the medications, to be covered for your whole trip. It might be a good idea to bring the prescription from the doctor as proof you can use those medications
Travel products that can help
Travel pillow with memory foam!
I love memory foam! I recently bought a new sleeping pillow and a mattress and it is so comfortable!
You can buy Aeris memory foam travel pillow here: Aeris Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow with Sleep Mask, Earplugs, Carry Bag, Adjustable Toggles and Velour Cover, Black
I can’t sleep on the plane without this. I am used to sleep on the side and this works perfect to fully relax on a plane.
If you sleep on one particular side, this one is perfect and you don’t have to worry about leaning into the person next to you or get hit when people walk by. I usually choose the aisle seat, because I get up and walk around every hour.
You can buy the travelrest here: Travelrest – Ultimate Travel Pillow – Lean Into It & Sleep – Ergonomic Neck Pillow – Airplanes, Cars, Buses, Trains, Office Napping, Camping, Wheelchairs & Home (Ranked 1 by WSJ)
I used to think these socks were just for old people. However, I use it every day and it lower the pain significantly. It is suppose to help with your blood circulation and activity in the leg. It is good to buy at least two pairs if you want to use it every day.
You can buy this compression socks here:Ladies 6 Pair Pack Compression Socks (Assorted) You can choose by different colours.
- Allow plenty of time.
Acknowledge that delays will happen. Don’t add to your stress by being booked too tight. Planes get delayed, trains get side-lined, and ships can take forever to debark. Build extra time into your schedule. Take a good book, some needlework, or your journal to fill in the time. Better yet, take a power nap and be ready for the next stop!
An important note: if you are traveling with health-related medications, liquids, machines (such as a C-PAP unit) or with braces, canes, etc. you have certain rights and responsibilities to be able to travel with them as well as the declaration and handling of these items. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can inform you and help you know what you need to do to travel by airplane. Go to http://www.tsa.gov/ for details.
Amtrak has information for travelers with disabilities including special rooms and cars for those who cannot negotiate the stairs on the cars. You can learn more at http://www.amtrak.com/.
Having fibromyalgia and having a good time are not mutually exclusive. Managing your condition as well as your trip will help you keep feeling good as well as have great memories of the wonderful time you had
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