7 Tips for Taking a Flight When Living With Osteoarthritis – Flexiseq

7 Tips for Taking a Flight When Living With Osteoarthritis

Going on holiday is always exciting. What’s less exciting - especially when you have osteoarthritis - is the prospect of spending long periods of time standing around waiting in airports, or cramped into small, uncomfortable seats for the duration of your flight. 

For anyone living with osteoarthritis, such experiences present unique challenges, and can quickly become overwhelming when combined with the discomfort of stiff joints and limited mobility. 

Fortunately, the following seven tips should help make your journey much more pleasant, so you can start your holiday as you mean to go on: relaxed!

1. Keep your essentials handy

Most people living with osteoarthritis will have a regular range of medications, treatments or tools that they use to manage their pain and inflammation. Whatever keeps your pain at bay - whether it’s ibuprofen, FlexiSEQ (available in a flight-friendly 30g pack) or a heat pad - you must make sure that these essentials travel with you in your hand luggage, where you can access them whenever they’re needed. Just make sure you have the necessary doctor’s notes or prescriptions for any medications that require them, and that they’re allowed to be brought into the country you’re travelling to. Along similar lines it’s important to keep joints hydrated so be sure to have water with you and drink plenty of it. What is more, in-flight food is often very limited so it’s often worth thinking about what you know your joints respond well to. For example, you could make something yourself from our arthritis friendly recipes

2. Book ahead for comfort

When you book in advance, you often have the option to choose your seat. Some people might prefer the window seat, finding it comfortable to lean against the cabin wall. Alternatively, you might prefer the aisle seat, where you have more room to stretch your legs and can access the toilets without having to clamber over your neighbours. If the flight is particularly long, you might even want to consider paying a little more to upgrade to a seat with extra legroom.

3. Make use of airport assistance

 Airports are famously huge, usually requiring a tremendous amount of walking from place to place, and a lot of standing around waiting the rest of the time. For anyone with osteoarthritis, these are very likely the last things they want to be doing. Fortunately, most airports and airlines offer assistance services to help those with mobility problems - often in the form of a wheelchair pushed by a member of staff, or a motorised cart to take you around the building. Staff can also help you with boarding, disembarking and transferring between gates - so it’s always a good idea to inform your airline of your requirements when you book, and to ask for help when you get to the airport. While speaking with them try to understand if you’ll be boarding/disembarking the plane via an air bridge or having to cross the tarmac and climb stairs. If it is the latter be sure to inform the airline you will need assistance with this.

4. Stretch before you fly

Sitting still for extended periods of time is rarely a good idea when you have osteoarthritis, and often serves to exacerbate joint stiffness and pain. You can minimise the chance of pain during your flight by doing some light stretches before you board, concentrating on stretching your legs, hips and back to loosen any tight muscles and improve your flexibility. Try doing some leg lifts, knee bends and gentle twisting, and perhaps even think about using a resistance band or foam roller for added support during your stretches. Boarding your flight with improved blood flow, better flexibility and looser muscles should help you feel more comfortable during the journey.

5. Support your joints during flight

There are quite a few tools that might be beneficial to your comfort during the flight. For example, if you often experience lower back pain, consider packing a lumbar pillow or asking the cabin crew for a blanket that you can roll up and use to support your spine. If you ever use a brace to support any of your joints, make sure you’re wearing it during the flight when you’re likely to need it most. Although remember, if it is a brace that contains metal it might be better to put it in your hand-luggage until you’re flight side so as it does not set off any alarms when going through security. You might also want to try compression socks to improve circulation in your legs and reduce swelling, or bring a travel pillow to provide comfort for your neck and shoulders.

6. Keep and eye on your posture

Sitting with the correct posture can make all the difference when it comes to your comfort on a long flight. Ideally, you’ll be able to sit with your knees and hips at a 90 degree angle, while your feet rest flat on the floor. If your legs aren’t long enough to reach the floor, try resting them on your hand luggage, or ask the cabin crew for a pillow or blanket to use as a footrest. Try and make sure your back stays straight and your shoulders stay relaxed, while avoiding slouching or leaning back too far as this can strain your lower back.


7. Take breaks from sitting

Whether you’re waiting to board the plane or waiting to land, long periods of immobility can lead to your joints seizing up, which in turn leads to increased pain and stiffness. Take a break from sitting every so often, and don’t forget that you can do this during the flight as well - stretch your legs by walking up and down the aisle every hour, and do some gentle stretches while you’re standing. If the seat belt sign is on, flex and extend your legs and rotate your ankles while seated. It’s all about keeping your joints moving and getting the blood flowing.

Bon voyage!

Do you have any great tips for flying when living with joint pain and osteoarthritis? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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