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): This is a non-benzo sedative used to treat insomnia. It really 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!