Traveling with Fibromyalgia

Last December was the first time I traveled internationally since developing fibromyalgia. It was over 30 hours of journeying each way. Naturally I was very nervous right before, not knowing how my body would react to that. After reading up on other people’s experiences a bit, I applied a few tactics to make the journey a little less uncomfortable. And much to my surprise, they largely worked! So I thought I will share a few things that I found helpful for me, in case anybody else could use them too!

Here are the top 5 things that helped me travel with fibromyalgia:

#1. Zolpidem (Ambien):Β This is a non-benzo sedative used to treat insomnia. ItΒ reallyΒ helped me sleep on the plane – something I could never otherwise do! In the past, two days without sleep was tolerable. But with FM, in my experience so far, that would have meant a serious flare by the time I reached my destination. And this helped mitigate that. As a plus, it helped with the jetlag, and surprisingly enough, it seems to have improved my overall FM symptoms too! I am not sure if the overall improvement is due to its action on altering sleep patterns or brain chemical modulation, but I am not complaining!

#2. Icy Hot Patches and ThermaCare HeatWraps: The Icy Hot patches on the upper back helped with the spasms I frequently have there, and the lower back ThermaCare HeatWrap was really helpful in making the long periods of sitting less uncomfortable. It emulated the heating pad I use on my chair at work to minimize lower back pain when I am sitting for a long(ish) while. The heating “pads” activate upon opening the packaging (exposure to air), can be easily inserted into pockets in the back brace-like belt, last for over 12 hours, and can be disposed off in regular trash. This makes them super handy on those 30+ hours of travel! Also, they did not beep when I forgot to take it off one time when walking through the security metal detector!

#3. Arm Braces: I found these very supportive when grabbing or pulling my suitcases. They seemed to offer a bit more stability to my forearm and helped minimize the pain in my wrists/inner forearm.

#4. Long Layovers: Long layovers mean less rushing. I could walk slower, sit for a bit in between if I wanted, or stand on the moving walkways instead of walking on them. This was a lifesaver for me, as my general walking speed has already slowed down quite a bit since developing FM, and I found myself further slowed by aching, swollen feet from ~10 hours of sitting in a flight! Not having to rush prevented a worsening of the leg ache.

#5. Aisle Seat: Aisle seats have always been my preference, so I can have easy access out of my seat. I could get up as frequently as I liked to move about or stretch a little. Of course, these were luxuries in the past. Now, they were necessities if I was to avoid a major flare. (And I am proud to say that I mostly did!)

I have read some people suggest rest breaks in airports at lounges or spas. That sounds like an excellent idea too, but unfortunately, nothing I have ever been able to afford yet. Tramadol was helpful too, and I have to admit it was needful despite the above measures. However, I do believe that the measures I described above reduced how much painkiller I would have otherwise had to take.

This travel experience was an important one for me. After managing it successfully, I could feel my floundering confidence levels regarding travel, and my ability to handle my condition, improve by leaps and bounds! Traveling was always important to me, and something I enjoyed doing. It hurt me when I felt that fibromyalgia might steal that joy away from me. But now, after making a successful journey halfway around the world, I am finally feeling like I might have my life at least a little bit back under my control, that I can still do the things I love, and manage my health successfully as I do it. And that is a wonderful feeling, for I haven’t felt that kind of hope in a long long time!

I wish all my dear readers a very happy, healthy and hopeful new year 2017!



13 thoughts on “Traveling with Fibromyalgia

  1. This is a helpful post! Traveling can be so tough with fibro. I’ve wondered if all the cabin pressure changes might have something to do with it. I am sensitive to barometric pressure changes so I’ve wondered about airplanes. Still, I love traveling!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you found it helpful! I find changes in pressure troublesome too, not to mention the cramped airplane seats. I used a jacket as a “pillow” against my back, and with the heat wrap, I made it through 2 ~10-hour plane rides, and all in one piece too! πŸ˜‰


  2. That’s good to know that heatwraps can go through the metal detector because I’d probably forget to remove mine too. πŸ˜‰ What kind of arm brace? Was it for the whole arm, or just one joint?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yeah, I was kind of surprised actually! I would have expected some metallic particles in those air-exposure dependent heating packets. But it was a nice surprise!

      The brace I used is meant for the wrist, but goes halfway up the arm so does offer some inner arm support because of the splint. I also like that the splint and some cushioning bleeds over into the middle of the palm, which protects from some of the pressure there when pulling/lifting bags. Here’s a link to it:

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes I agree. I have a couple – the full support one in the link above, and a medium support one that I keep at work. I sometimes need it after a lot of pipetting; and though it is not as nice as the full support one, it is easier to use the computer with that one. It is hard to do much of anything with the full support brace, making it impractical at the lab.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a very helpful post to read. Travelling anywhere can be pretty difficult so travelling internationally can feel quite daunting. Thank you for the great tips. I am going away in March and will keep them in mind.

    I hope your journey was as pain free as possible πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am very glad you found the post helpful. I hope you have a wonderful trip, and the pain stays manageable throughout. There’s another thing I had considered, but finally didn’t do, and that is requesting a wheelchair at the airports. From what I gather, you do need to give a few days advance notice to the airlines, but if you do that, they will have a wheelchair for you at the gate, to take you to the next gate. Some airports may also have those golf cart type vehicles. So if you think you need extra assistance, I hope you can be more courageous than me and ask for disability assistance! πŸ™‚ Hope you have a wonderful trip!! Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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