Having fibromyalgia doesn’t mean you don’t want to soak up the sun on a nice vacation! While living with chronic pain and fatigue can certainly make things more difficult, it’s not impossible. With a little extra planning, traveling with fibromyalgia can be just as memorable and rewarding.
How Does Fibromyalgia Affect People?
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and difficulties with sleep, moods, and memory. Fibromyalgia may be the result of your brain and spinal cord amplifying sensory signals, resulting in painful sensations.
While symptoms often emerge after some kind of triggering event, like physical or psychological trauma, they can also appear with no clear trigger.
Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is often joined by other disorders. People who suffer from it may also experience depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and TMJ disorders.
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are:
- Widespread pain, which occurs throughout the entire body and lasts for at least three months. Widespread means that you experience pain on either side of your body, both above and below the waist
- Fatigue that is not improved by resting. In spite of prolonged periods of sleep, people with fibromyalgia often wake up feeling tired. Your sleep may be disrupted by pain or other sleep disorders
- Cognitive difficulties, often referred to as fibro fog, which can impair focus, attention, and concentration
Best Tips for Traveling with Fibromyalgia
Traveling with fibromyalgia can be difficult because it puts added strain on your body. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible!
With the right planning, you can enjoy your vacation and avoid flare-ups.
Make Sure to Plan Ahead
The more stressed you are when traveling with fibromyalgia, the worse your symptoms are likely to be.
Planning ahead can alleviate a lot of that stress in advance!
Figure out where you’re staying, what sites you want to visit, and how you’ll get around.
Make reservations for any restaurants you want to eat at. This will make your experience easier and can help you cater to any food sensitivities you may have.
You should also look at public transportation in your destination. Is it accessible? When does it run?
Are there shuttles you can take to get to your hotel from the airport? Can you take advantage of a hop-on hop-off tour bus to explore major attractions?
When You’re Packing, Stay Organized To Reduce Stress
Staying stress-free while traveling with fibromyalgia means staying organized!
Make yourself a checklist of everything you need to bring. Don’t forget your medications and any other items that are helpful during a flare-up. Just make sure to check TSA regulations first.
You can use this packing checklist as a guide:
- Layers to help you control your body temperature
- Heating and cooling products, like this great microwaveable heating pad, can help you regulate your temperature and manage any pain you may experience.
- Medication, in slightly larger amounts than you think you need. If there’s an unexpected delay, you don’t want to find yourself running out of medications. With narcotics or other controlled substances, it’s best to keep them in their original packaging. Keep your medications in your carry-on bags so that you aren’t in trouble if your luggage is lost or delayed!
- Medical devices, like a CPAP, can be annoying to transport but they’re well worth it. Even if you are already at the maximum limit of carry-on bags, you can still carry on your medical device, but expect a little extra screening.
If You’re Flying, Be Aware of TSA Pat-Downs
Nobody likes TSA pat-downs. But when you’re traveling with fibromyalgia and sensitive to touch, they can be an even worse experience.
Sure, you may not be randomly selected for a pat-down, but it’s better to plan ahead just in case. Carrying a medical device, like a CPAP machine increases your odds of being selected.
A standard check involves having the insides of your thighs, your sides, and under your arms patted.
TSA agents should be trained to pat-down people with disabilities, but you may need to advocate for yourself. Inform the agent you have fibromyalgia and ask them to be as gentle as possible. Having a doctor’s note can help, but ask for a supervisor if you have additional concerns.
One of the worst things you can do is stress about this possibility ahead of time. Stress can cause your symptoms to worsen. It can also make you look suspicious, increasing the odds of you being selected. If you have anxiety medication, consider taking it before you get to the airport to help you stay calm.
Plan for Downtime During Your Trip
You know your body needs to rest. Keep that in mind as you plan your activities; you need to plan for downtime!
Overloading yourself one day isn’t worth spending the rest of your trip in bed.
If you don’t want to schedule downtime specifically, try to keep your plans loose and flexible.
When you get home, plan for some extra downtime to recover. Ideally, you want a couple of days before you have to get back into the swing of things!
Planning ahead can make all the difference when it comes to traveling with fibromyalgia.
Spending a little time planning before your trip will save you so much trouble. You’ll be less stressed and better able to manage your symptoms and enjoy your vacation.