man on beach with arthritis in knee


Ask ten people and you’ll probably get the same answer: holiday travel is seldom, if ever, all that comfortable. But especially for people with arthritis, traveling can be grueling, aching, and flat out awful. But there is a ray of hope, a chance to improve your odds.


By land, air, or even sea, the jostling, tight seating, and limited ability to get up and move around while traveling keeps pressure on the joints and provides little opportunity for relief. Combine the default travel discomfort with an ongoing pandemic and the oncoming holidays and you’ve got a recipe for aches and pains like you’ve never felt before. 


Just in time for the holidays, UAB Medical West offers some simple tips and tricks to make traveling with arthritis a little more manageable--and a lot less painful.


Pack Smartly

Some people like to pack days ahead. Others just throw everything into a piece of luggage an hour or so beforehand. When traveling with arthritis, though, you’ll want access to relief, and relief is only as good as where you left it. 


In both plane and car, you’ll want to keep your medications close by. Packing your medication specifically in a carry on bag, or keeping it nearby in a car, can give you easy and ready access. 


Leave prescription medication in the original pharmacy bottle to avoid confusion at airports or during traffic stops, and make sure to consult your doctor about any over the counter medication you may take along. 


When you want it, you’ll be glad you packed it where you did!




Proper hydration can be difficult on the best of days, but during travel it can be twice as hard. While it may be tempting to avoid drinking enough water--either to reduce stops in a car or to avoid the lavatory on an airplane--reducing joint pain and treating the symptoms of arthritis depend on proper hydration.


Water helps the production of synovial fluid in the cartilage of our joints (which can cause pain when dry and hard). Water can also reduce inflammation around the joints, improves circulation, and promotes the immune system’s response.  


As you travel, remember not to stray too far away from your bottled water!


Brace Yourselves


Braces and compression sleeves are default equipment for arthritis sufferers--never more so than when traveling. 


Most airports expect travelers wearing special equipment. A metal-free brace can keep you moving through airport security without too much of a fuss. Knee and wrist braces can also keep you pain free behind the wheel of a car. 


Braces and other wearable devices are generally accepted during air travel and can make the road that much easier to tolerate.


Don’t Forget to Stretch/Ask for Help


Air travel is tight by nature. Traveling in a car inspires less stopping and more driving, even when we know we need a break. But stretching is important and movement (even temporary) improves circulation.


Airports are happy to help you with both getting to and on your plane. Arrangements are easily made on the day of travel itself, though doing so ahead of time can’t hurt.


Don’t be afraid to get up and walk around in the aisles. If possible, choose an aisle seat or talk to the airline about a seat with extra leg room. When traveling by car, don’t put off stopping when you need to. You’ll get where you’re going in the end. A stop to stretch the legs and back could give you the strength you need to keep on going!


Happier Holiday Travel


Living with arthritis can be trying and traveling with it can be a literal pain. Thinking about your needs ahead of time can make all the difference during the holiday season!


To learn more about arthritis travel tips, or to schedule an appointment to manage your arthritis before the holidays, call UAB Medical West today!

Arthritis shouldn’t hold you back from joining your loved ones this holiday season. With proper preparation and expert advice from the professionals at UAB Medical West, you can plan your journey with aches and pains in mind. Call 205-996-WEST today to schedule an appointment. Serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, UAB Medical West wishes you safe and comfortable travels this holiday season.