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Chronic pain can be a symptom of all sorts of medical issues.
From back pain and other musculo-skeletal problems to nerve damage, autoimmune disease to fibromyalgia, whatever the causes, chronic pain can be seriously debilitating and life-restricting for sufferers.
One thing that might not be high on anyone’s to-do list while they are coping with chronic pain is travel.
The idea of being sat on an uncomfortable aeroplane or coach seat for hours on end, or traipsing around on foot doing some site-seeing, may sound like your worst nightmare.
But sometimes travel is necessary, whether it is for work or family reasons. And when you are dealing with persistent pain over an extended period, one of the main focuses of treatment is learning to manage and cope with the symptoms, so you can get on with the rest of your life.
Just as medical experts advise patients to try to carry on with as normal a life as possible while their symptoms are controlled, so the prospect of travel should not fill anyone with a chronic pain condition with dread.
As with home or work life, it is a matter of taking the necessary steps to make sure you can cope.
Put together a medication and well-being plan with your doctor
Your first port of call when planning to travel with any kind of medical condition is to speak to your doctor.
With chronic pain conditions, the conversation will revolve around two key things – the physical steps you can take to manage your symptoms while travelling, and the steps you can take to control your mental well-being.
On the physical side, pain relief is an important topic.
If you are on prescription painkillers, you need to double check the local rules relating to your product – some opioid-based medications, for example, are more tightly restricted in some countries than others.
In any case, you should get a prescription to cover everything you need while you are way, get it dispensed at home and then take it with you.
A letter from your doctor explaining what the medication is for is also a good idea, just in case you get quizzed about it.
Coping with pain can be as much a mental battle as it is physical. Being in constant pain can quickly wear down your mental resilience and seriously impact your well-being.
If symptoms do flare up as you travel, it is worth having strategies you can fall back on to cope, whether it is meditation, mindfulness techniques or similar.
Travel and pain can both cause stress – when mixed together, it can be a nasty combination, so thinking about how to reduce your stress levels effectively can play a big role.
Talk to your airline and hotel
For conditions like chronic back pain, support for your back and neck as you sit and sleep can be critical in avoiding flare ups.
You may have orthopaedic pillows, mattresses and chairs at home to help, but on a flight or in a distant hotel, you won’t necessarily have these.
Neck supports and pillows you can take with you, but if you need extra, it is important to talk to people in advance.
On a flight, for example, you may be able to request a seat on the front row where you can stretch out your legs.
You can carry padded foam mattress covers to help adjust to a new bed, but it may be more convenient to ask if your hotel can source something similar for you.
Take out the right medical insurance
If you do suffer a sudden flare up of symptoms while you are abroad, you may need to seek medical assistance. It is therefore really important that you take out specialised travel insurance for chronic pain.
Travel insurance providers require you to declare all pre-existing medical conditions before you travel.
If you don’t and then need medical treatment, your policy is likely to be declared void and you will be left to foot the bill.
If you require hospital admission, this could easily run to thousands of pounds. A chronic pain policy from a specialised provider will give you the reassurance that you are covered for all eventualities.