9 Tips for Flying with Rheumatoid Arthritis


For those who have traveled with rheumatoid arthritis before, you will know all too well how challenging it can be. Even the shortest trip can feel like a struggle when you consider the range of debilitating effects that the condition can bring. Therefore, making minor adjustments to your travel can make a huge difference and help your flying experience go as smoothly as possible.

See Your Doctor

Before you go on your travels, it’s wise to talk with your doctor first. When at your appointment, you will be able to ask any questions that you may have, as well as ensure you have enough medication to last you throughout the trip. You may be able to get a little more in case you lose your luggage or experience delays. If you are going on a long-haul flight, make sure to check whether additional prescription-strength pain medication would be right for you. Make sure to take any medication one hour before you fly to give it enough time to get into your system. It may also be worth getting in touch with a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, such as Cohen Centers, as they may be able to offer alternatives that provide longer lasting relief.

Contact Your Airline

You may also benefit from contacting your airline provider to notify them of your medical condition. Doing so with advance notice means that they can provide you with a wheelchair should you need it, as well as early boarding. Also, airline personnel can carry your luggage for you, as well as store it in the overhead bin. If you need a special shuttle or an elevator platform for boarding, this can also be arranged, helping to make your experience go as smoothly as possible.

When to Travel

Knowing when to travel can have a huge difference in how well the trip goes. You should consider booking flights when there will be fewer people on board the plane. Doing so will mean you will have more room to stretch out or get up to have a walk around. To get a better idea of when to fly, you should speak with an airline representative or travel agent. Also, make sure to pick the aisle seat as it will be easier for you to maneuver around during your flight. Try to avoid booking flights that require you to wake up early, especially if you suffer with achy joints in the morning.

Provide Support to Your Joints

Throughout the flight, you will need to provide support to your joints. If you suffer with lower back pain, you may want to consider having a pillow or back roll in place to provide comfort. If you need to wear a brace for your affected joint, make sure to bring it with you or wear it as you board. Being able to relax and unwind on the plane is incredibly important. The last thing you want to do is be in discomfort and pain, especially if you are traveling long distance. There are various pieces of support equipment that you can bring onboard to help you with this. Also, make sure to practice good posture once you are in your seat, and having a pillow or blanket to prop up your feet will help keep your knees at the correct angle.

Move Around

If you are flying long-haul, it’s important to stay as active as you can while in the air. Instead of staying sat down throughout the whole flight, try and get up and walk around the aircraft every so often. A recent study has shown that those with rheumatoid arthritis are said to have twice the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis over those who do not have it. Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in the veins of your legs because of inactivity.

Seat Exercises

There are various seat exercises that you can do to help reduce stiffness in your joints. As you will be sitting down for long periods of time, you can quickly become uncomfortable, so doing seat exercises is incredibly important. One exercise you can do involves keeping your heels firmly on the ground while lowering and raising your toes. Performing regular seat exercises throughout your flight can also help to reduce the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.

Use Ice or Heat Therapy

If you get relief from using ice or heat, don’t hesitate to use it while on the plane. Doing so can help ease joint pain and provide comfort throughout the flight. Make sure to bring heat wraps with you or carry a resealable plastic bag that an air steward can fill with ice.

Travel Insurance

Purchasing travel insurance can be hugely beneficial for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. With many people losing out on huge sums of money because of last minute cancellations, having travel insurance in place can give you protection and security. With all the excitement and dashing around that goes hand in hand with a trip, you may experience a flare up which may result in having to cancel your trip.

Ask for Help

If you are traveling alone and need any assistance throughout your trip, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Airline stewards are there for a reason, so no matter what your problem is, you are sure to receive support that can help keep you feeling relaxed and happy while onboard.

Having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t mean you have to stop what you enjoy doing the most. While it can feel easier to stay at home and not venture out of your comfort zone, being able to explore new places can bring huge benefits. Make sure to take all the tips listed onboard to help improve your flying experience. If you are worried before you travel, it’s advised to see your doctor who will be able to give you information on medication and types of exercise that you can do throughout your trip to help keep any flare ups at bay.

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