7 Tips to Reduce Chronic Joint Pain While Traveling During The Holidays


Chronic Joint Pain While Traveling

Traveling during the holidays can, without a doubt, be dreadful if you have chronic joint pain. Some people even miss out on seeing their families over the holiday season because they just can’t handle sitting down for the duration of the trip. We encounter many people who have traveled to another state, whether it may be by car or by plane, and return home with major back, neck, hip, or knee issues.

Patients often come to us and ask, “I want to see my family. What can I do to make traveling less painful for me so that I can go see them?”.

The answer is simple.

Bad posture and little movement prove to be the two main causes of chronic joint pain flare-ups following a trip.

We have put together some tips and tricks in order to make travel during the holidays a little less painful.

Driving Tips To Avoid Chronic Joint Pain Flare-Ups

We all know being stuck in a car for an extended amount of time can be brutal- especially for the driver. Having bad posture while sitting down for hours at a time can lead to severe back problems. Bad posture, little to no movement and the wrong clothes all play a factor in the aches that we often experience when we take a road trip. Here are some tips to avoid common mistakes while on a road trip during the holidays:

Adjust your seat

To stop the pain before it begins, adjusting the car seat before you begin your journey can help immensely. Putting your seat in a position that is tilted slightly backward will allow your elbows to relax and your body to sit naturally. This in turn will reduce the stress placed on the spine because the seat will carry some of your weight.

Avoid tight clothes

Wearing loose and comfortable clothes will allow more movement within the tiny space you might find yourself. Tight clothing or belts can restrict your movement and cause the body to gradually become stiffer over the duration of the trip.

Stop and Stretch

It can be tempting to keep on driving in order to get to your destination as quickly as possible. But people tend to forget that giving the body a break after a certain amount of time in the car is essential. Pulling over to a rest stop or gas station will allow you to get out, walk around and give your legs a much-needed stretch. To help encourage these breaks, drink lots of water!  If you are having low back pain, read this blog about ways to relieve it.

Flying Tips To Avoid Chronic Joint Pain Flare-Ups

Flying instead of driving does have its perks. One of them is that you can sit back and relax rather than having to keep an eye on the road.  Anytime we can reduce stress when traveling will give you the best chance of lowering chronic joint pain.  Here are some tips to help maximize the perks of flying to help ease chronic joint pain.

Drink Water

When choosing to fly, you have the option to consume alcohol while you are on the way to your destination. While you’re up in the air, it’s important to stick to water due to the fact that drinking alcohol can cause the body to rapidly dehydrate. Dehydration can exaggerate muscle stiffness and cramps, ultimately doing more bad than good.

In-flight Exercises

While on the plane, it can understandably be difficult to get up and move around. Unless you’re walking to the back to use the restroom, you probably aren’t getting much movement. A solution to this would be to do tiny in-flight exercises such as shoulder shrugs and foot circles (think writing the ABC’s with your feet). This will assist blood circulation throughout the body and help to avoid blood clot formation in your legs. This will have a huge impact on the way you feel after landing.

Avoid Moving Walkways

Once you’ve landed, walk, don’t slide, to the baggage claim. Instead of taking a moving walkway, walk to baggage claim!  Our joints and muscles are nourished with movement and walking after a flight is the fastest and easiest way to get our joints and muscles moving again.  Walking also triggers our skeletal muscle pump, the pump responsible for returning blood flow back to the heart, to start working.  This will help reduce the risk of blood clots after a long flight.  Restoring blood flow is vital for people suffering with chronic joint pain.

Push Don’t Pull

The final piece of advice is to push your suitcase, rather than to pull it. Pulling your suitcase from behind as you cross the airport causes the body to twist in a motion that can be harmful to your back. Pushing the suitcase in a forward direction alleviates strain on the back and upper body.  This may require purchasing new luggage, especially if the wheels are no longer rolling as easily as they used to.


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Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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