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How travel days can irritate arthritis symptoms (and what to do about it)

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There’s nothing like checking into a hotel after a long day of travel with nothing on the agenda for the evening except friendly conversation over a nice dinner in the lobby. For those of us with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or other forms of aggregated joint pain, however, those long days sometimes lead into nights of soreness and chronic pain.

As you undoubtedly know by now, airports are not designed with arthritis patients in mind. Long walkways, greasy fast food, and stressful security lines can undue any relaxing idealisms of the days ahead. And that’s before you even board the airplane, where recirculated air and cramped conditions don’t exactly allow for a stretched-out, joint-friendly experience.

 

Allow plenty of time

Fortunately, there are some precautions you can take to minimize joint pain and inflammation on travel days. 

First, get to the airport early. We know — you’ve heard this a million times, but we’re not just talking about being ready for an unexpected line at check-in. If you have to make it from the transit terminal or parking lot to check-in, through security, onto a bus or tram to the correct concourse, and all the way down to your gate at the far end of that concourse, it helps to have some extra time.

Rushing through the motions at the airport can really add pressure to your entire body, including those sensitive joints. By showing up extra early, you have time to move at a mellow pace and hopefully stop for a coffee or healthier meal option (thank you, build-your-own-salad station!), and maybe even relax over the newspaper for a few minutes, before heading to the gate.

Most big airports offer rides through the concourse to the gate. If your arthritis pain is really kicking in, take advantage of the ride, and don’t forget to use those escalators and elevators instead of that spiral staircase. 

 

Be prepared for the long haul

Long travel days can be a real nuisance on your comfort. There’s not a person alive that would vote for airplane seats as the world’s most comfortable, and if you’re traveling by train or automobile, well, those seats probably aren’t much better.

You can counteract the discomfort by wearing comfortable clothing and by bringing items such as a neck pillow, a small travel pillow, and a hat.

If possible, check your bags so as not to be stuck carrying or wheeling any more weight than necessary. 

And, last but not least, drink water consistently throughout the day. As much of a pain as it might be to make an extra restroom stop, a bit of extra movement can actually benefit your arthritis pain by keeping your joints loose instead of stuck in sitting position for hours at a time. If on a long flight, get up and walk around the aisle from time to time. 

This is much easier to do on a train, of course — if there’s a bar car, that makes it even more motivating — but whatever you can do to keep loose, keep nimble, and keep from cramping up is going to benefit you in the long run. 

 

Have your medicine situation on lockdown

Proper packing is key to every step of the journey, and this is extra true for medications. When loading your carry-on bag, make sure that any medication or supplements you take to manage joint pain and inflammation are in their original, marked packaging, so as to avoid any hassle from security. 

It also helps to keep them easily accessible at the top of your carry on bag or in a special part of your toiletries bag so that can reach into and grab them without having to unpack anything else first.

If traveling domestically, security agents should be up to par on what is allowed and what isn’t. Medications that must be kept cold, for example, are allowed to be stored in a portable cooler or with freezer cubes to keep them at the proper temperature. If you’re traveling abroad, notes from your doctor or any printed paperwork are a good thing to have on hand, just in case.

 

Eat right while traveling (and in the days leading up to the trip)

The impact of what you put into your body on how you feel cannot be overstated. By maintaining a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and leafy greens, and by following any dietary recommendations from your doctor, you’re giving yourself the advantage of not letting unhealthy food trigger unneeded arthritis pain.

We have a number of quality recipes, snacks, and other dietary hints over on the GLX3 blog. Try to eat as healthy as possible in the days leading up to your trip because you never know when you’ll be stuck eating that grab-and-go burrito from the airport. 

In addition, an omega-3 rich supplement such as GLX3 can help to ensure you are getting all of the healthy fatty acids you need to minimize joint pain and inflammation. When used as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle (something we call the Haka Life Warrior way), GLX3 is a great travel aide to have in your toolkit. Take it in the morning, and then move on with your day — no stress, and no need to find a pharmacy in a new city. And, as an added bonus, you can bring the bottle of GLX3 with you in your carry-on. 

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