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12 Tips for Going on a Long Car Trip When You Live With Fibromyalgia

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When someone who doesn’t live with chronic illness decides to go on a road trip, they usually pack their essentials: some trail mix, a good playlist to listen to and a plan on how to get to their final destination. The same cannot be said for someone who lives with fibromyalgia though. Planning for a long car trip when living with chronic pain can mean something completely different.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes widespread pain throughout the body, fatigue and cognitive issues that can affect your memory or ability to think. It can be really tough for someone who lives with fibromyalgia to be stuck in the car for a good amount of time. A long car ride can cause symptoms to flare up and potentially make you feel worse.

There are plenty of reasons why someone with fibromyalgia needs to travel in the car for long periods of time. Sometimes, your doctor might be a few hours away from you, depending on where you live. Or, you might have family or a tourist destination that’s hours away you want to see. Regardless of what your circumstances might be, you should have the option to go on a road trip even if you do live with fibromyalgia.

When you have to travel for long periods of time in the car, you might be looking for ideas on how to make it a better experience if you have fibromyalgia. That’s why we asked our community what advice they might have to make your trip more comfortable. Let us know what other tips you’d recommend in the comments below.

Here’s what our community had to say: 

1. Pack a “survival” bag.

“I would buy a duffel bag or something and fill it with first aid things: pain medicine, heartburn medication, anti-diarrheal medication, snacks and a heating pad that can be plugged into the vehicle along with a massage pad. I also tend to bring a blanket and sometimes a pillow as well. And depending on the length of the trip a cooler is nice for drinks and ice packs.” — Tiffany B.

“Make sure you bring every possible thing to help pain and possibly prevent it too. Medications, a huge water bottle or to-go cup, Bengay or icy hot, a neck pillow, blanket, comfy shoes, etc.” — Alexandria M.

2. Distract yourself with music and audio books.

“If you can, my spouse and I started listening to books, either I would read or use a book on tape. It provides a good distraction and makes the time go by faster.” — Davette W.

“[Listen to] a podcast or music to try and disassociate.” — Beki E.

“I kept good podcasts playing, music I could sing to and interesting fact podcasts.” — Leah M.

3. Don’t be the driver; be the passenger.

“Have someone else do the driving for you. If you drive it will cause more strain, which equals more pain.” — Sarah N.

“Make someone else drive.” — Miriam J.

4. Stay on top of your pain medication.

“Don’t do it… Because it will hurt. But if you have to, make sure to stay on top your pain by taking your pain medication on time.” — Jenny S.

“Keep your medication in a bag close to you in case you need it while traveling.” — Tiffany M.

5. Use quality cushions.

“Invest in different cushions. I have a gel seat cushion that’s always in use, as well as a lumbar cushion I switch in and out for my back. [I also have a] cushioned steering wheel cover. Also, you can buy heating, cooling and vibrating seat covers that plug into the car power adapter. But you’ll want a cushion on top of it. I can always feel the mechanisms if I sit directly on it.” — Jade R.

6. Bring food and water.

“[Drink] lots of water! Even if it means taking lots of bathroom stops, take those as opportunities to stretch and let your blood flow a little!” — Sierra R.

“Stay hydrated! It’s easy to get dehydrated because you don’t want to stop to use the bathroom, but it makes a world of difference. And have snacks handy. We had Chex Mix, fruit, string cheese and two different kinds of trail mix.” — Rachel S.

7. Plan a wardrobe that helps you feel better.

“If not medically contraindicated, [get some] good support hose. Helps prevent swelling and at least for me, reduces leg pain.” — Colleen S.

“[Wear] comfortable clothing (loose and flexible).” — Adele M.

“Compression knee highs. It helps the swelling and pain in the legs!” — Sabrina D.

8. Take lots of breaks.

“Pace yourself. Take regular breaks to get out and do some gentle stretches and make sure you drink enough.” — Kate S.

“Stop at every rest stop and stretch.” — Rose H.

“Make regular stops to get out and stretch and move around.” — Cate M.

9. Buy a heating pad for your car.

“My husband bought me a heated throw that I can plug into the cigarette lighter! I always keep it in my car and use it even in the middle of summer along with the seat warmers, then I blast my face with cold air… Some of you will relate!” — Judith S.

“I have an outlet in my car so I bring a heating pad.” — Samantha S.

10. Use blankets and towels to cushion your ride.

“[Use] a big blanket! You can use it to mold it around your head and neck as a makeshift pillow that will fit nicely in the car. More comfortable than the neck pillows.” — Krista S.

“Roll up a towel and put it between the seat and the lower arch of your back. This provides support and can help prevent back and hip pain.” — Amy C.

11. Don’t be afraid to stop at a hotel.

“My daughter lives 11 hours away from me. I can manage six to seven hours, then stay overnight in a hotel and finish my journey in the morning. Take it easy for a day or two, then vacation. Repeat on the way home.” — Billie P.

12. Give yourself time to recover after your journey.

“Budget yourself a day or two after [your trip]. You will need the extra rest and ‘slow days’ to recover to your baseline ‘normal.’” — Mikhaile S.

To learn more about traveling with a chronic illness, check out the following stories:

Originally published: May 16, 2019
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