Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but it can develop in children, teens, and younger adults. It is an inflammation of the joints affecting more commonly in women than men and in people who are overweight. It can affect one joint or multiple joints.

Tips for Traveling with Arthritis by Plane

Some symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis with more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods, the two most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). See How Arthritis Causes Joint Pain

If you are planning on traveling long-distance by plane, then there are a few steps you or a loved one can take to help manage arthritis pain.

Traveling by plane offers a quick trip to a your destination but sitting for long periods can cause arthritis to cause more discomfort. Here are a few helpful tips to manage arthritis.

Many seniors find that arthritis can get worse in the lower body due to sitting for long periods. This would be most concerning for a person’s hips, spine, lower back and knees. Sitting for long periods can exacerbate the symptoms. If you have space, leg lifts are a good seated exercise to do on a plane.

See Knee Stretches.

The following exercises can be done while you’re in flight:

  • Raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the ground.
  • Raise and lower your heels while your toes stay on the ground.
  • Tighten and relax the muscles in your legs.
  • If you have space, lift your foot off the floor and straighten your leg until you feel it in your hamstrings.

Other Tips & Tricks for Flying with Arthritis:

  1. If you have a long flight, ask your primary doctor ahead of time if an additional prescription-strength pain medication would be appropriate.
  2. Before your trip, call the airline ahead of time to discuss special needs to help minimize strain, such as:
    • Wheelchair assistance and early boarding, if necessary.
    • Airline personnel can carry luggage for you and/or lift it into the overhead bin.
    • You can set up special accommodations for special shuttles and elevator platforms for boarding.
  3. When booking a flight check with the airline to review the amount of people who will be on board. One of the better areas on a plane is to be placed in an aisle seat or near the lavatory to have more room for you to stretch out or get up to walk. A travel agent or airline representative can help you determine this.
  4. If you or a loved one has more arthritis pain at a particular time of day (such as early morning), do not schedule a flight that will require you to wake up extremely early.

During your flight:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication like Advil or naproxen (Aleve) or Tylenol Arthritis to provide pain relief during the flight. Use as recommended and take it 30 minutes to 1 hour before your flight to give it time to get into your system.
  • Use support for your joints during the flight. For lower back pain, provide support behind your lower back with a back roll or a pillow. If you use a brace for your affected joint, bring or wear it.
  • Practice good posture. If your legs are not at a right angle when you sit in the seat, ask for something (pillows and/or blankets) to prop up your feet and keep your knees at a right angle.
  • Get up and walk around during long flights. If your flight is longer than 4 hours, get up to walk around at least every 2 to 3 hours to help prevent deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in the veins of your legs due to inactivity. Those with rheumatoid arthritis have twice the risk of deep vein thrombosis as those who don’t have RA.1
  • Do seat exercises. This will help mobility and prevent stiffness in your joints while sitting during the flight and decrease your risk for deep vein thrombosis. See Knee Stretches
  • Use heat or ice therapy. If either helps ease joint pain, don’t be afraid to use it on the plane. Bring along heat wraps or a Ziplock plastic bag and ask the attendant to fill it with ice.

If you or your loved one have more specific non-emergency medical needs and need a private alternative than you may want to consider a Med Flight Air Ambulance.

How MedTransportCenter can help you or a loved one travel with Arthritis.

Med Flight Air Ambulance services are coordinated by AirMD which arranges and utilizes its FAA Air Carrier Affiliates to provide 24-hour non-emergency air ambulance services throughout the world. By working with our affiliate carriers we can offer:

  • Larger fleet of aircraft to choose from
  • Cost savings by selecting the air carrier whose air ambulance aircraft is closest to your location on the desired transport day
  • Quicker response times to your location.  We typically have aircraft with 1.5 hours of your location.
  • Long range international air ambulance jets including Gulfstream and Challenger.   Learn more about our available air ambulance aircraft fleet.
  • Board Certified emergency medicine physician with over 30 years experience consulting on air ambulance transports. Learn more about our Med Flight Medical Crews and Pilots.