When I hurt my back several years ago, I kept thinking it would get better. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  I now suffer from chronic pain. After a while, I stopped doing many of the things I used to love to do. Travel was one of them.  But last year when I had to travel to a business meeting, I had to figure out what would work for me. Here is my list of travel tips for chronic pain sufferers.
I suffer from spinal stenosis, which causes me pretty severe back pain and sciatica. While it’s usually manageable in my house when I have to travel that’s a whole different story. At home, I have an expensive adjustable bed, my special chair, and everything else I need for a pain flare up.  Since I would be flying, driving, and staying in multiple hotels, I had to plan very carefully. For my trip, clothes weren’t my issue. Comfort and being as pain-free as possible were my main considerations.  I also was alone on this trip so I needed to be self-sufficient. Here is what worked for me.


When you book your flight, make sure you choose your seat carefully for both the outbound and inbound flight. I always get an aisle seat so that I can stretch out my bad leg in the aisle if needed. I also am able to stand up quickly if I start cramping.  I pick a seat near the restroom. If you can afford it, fly business class or first class. I discovered on a recent trip that first class wasn’t that much more expensive than I was expecting to pay for coach. So I took advantage of the comfort instead of opting for an extremely cheap seat. I was glad I did.
A couple of days before my flight I call the airline and make sure they will have a wheelchair for me.  Don’t be ashamed of needing a wheelchair to get through LAX or some other HUGE airport.  The agony of limping and dragging my body through miles of hallways guarantees a major flare before I even get on the plane.  Don’t forget to bring some cash to tip the person who rapidly pushes you to or from the gate. I usually tip around 5 dollars. It will be the best 5 dollars you ever spend.  Also, tell the airline to make sure there will be a wheelchair waiting for you when you get off the plane too! They will take you to the baggage claim and even retrieve your bags for you.
In addition to my purse, I bring a small rolling bag  (small enough to go into an overhead bin) and if I am not changing planes, I check it.  Yes, it can cost a bit more. But surviving the trip is more important. Budget for it.


  • I use a cross body, messenger style bag as my purse for traveling and if I want something smaller once I am there, I pack a tiny foldable bag for essentials. In my purse I will have: some snacks, all my medicines, a couple of salon pas strips, my Ipad and/or kindle, phone, makeup and wallet with money and any important papers, including my handicap placard.  I also carry my folding cane, which once I have used it to go up the steps or get to my seat, I can fold it away into my purse.
  • In my suitcase, I pack clothes for about three or four days and I use the roll method of packing, which is where you roll your items up tightly. Amazingly this method saves space and there really are fewer wrinkles.  I want to save space in my small suitcase because I also want to also pack the following:
  • A heating pad. This is A MUST. Those hotel beds can be unforgiving and heat can help you relax.
  • A portable back massager – mine can be plugged into a car if necessary.
  •  An ice bag  – this can be filled with ice in the hotel, at a drive through, or anywhere that has ice. This can help a sciatic flare up quickly,
 My Knee pillow
  • Always bring extra medications with you. I carry mine in my purse.
  • Ask for the handicap room if possible. It will be on a ground floor or located closer to an elevator. It also will have grab bars in the shower and toilet area.
  • Once you arrive at your hotel, let the bellman or whoever, get you ice and extra pillows for your legs.
  • Build in enough time to rest between arriving and any meetings you may have.   In fact plan for additional time to do everything! You will be so glad you did.


    Prior to my chronic condition, I used to LOVE to travel.  And now, it is more difficult. But, with some adjustments I have learned I can do many of the things I used to if I give myself enough time, and plan ahead.  I would love to hear any travel advice that has worked for you!   Have a safe and happy trip!
    Check out this related post for your packing cheat sheet!