Top Tips for Surviving A Long-Haul Flight with Fibromyalgia

Guest post by Pooja Halbe

A long-haul flight with fibromyalgia can be a bit daunting even for the most intrepid traveler. You imagine the worst-case scenarios and replay them over and over again until your vacation plans start to represent your worst nightmares. There’s no doubt that you will face some challenges along the way but good planning will help you clear these hurdles effortlessly. Traveling with a chronic illness may be daunting but there are plenty of things that you can do to make sure that you have a relaxed stress-free flight.

8 Tips for Travelers with Fibromyalgia

  1. Request pre-board status

Most people with fibromyalgia don’t know that they can request pre-board status when they check-in. The last thing you need is to start a 6-hour flight already tired and in pain. Some airlines allow passengers to choose their own seats which means that pre-boarding will ensure that you get an aisle seat. Typically, you don’t need any documentation for ‘proof’ but it’s advisable to get a note from your doctor just in case it’s required.

  • Book an aisle seat

A window seat is nice for short flights where you can look out of the window and feel less confined but on a long-haul flight, nothing beats an aisle seat. Fibromyalgia pain, stiffness, and fatigue are especially hard to handle if you’re confined to your seat for long durations. Book an aisle seat so that you can get up and walk around every half an hour or so to stave off stiffness and pain.

  • Do stretching exercises at least once an hour

Sitting upright for a long haul-flight puts a lot of strain on your upper body. The best way to tackle this problem is to practice stretching exercises at least once an hour throughout your flight. The shoulder shrug, overhead triceps stretch, back extension, and chest stretch are just a few exercises that will help to prevent muscle aches and fatigue.

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  • Sleep well prior to traveling

Sleep has a restorative effect which is why insomnia and disrupted sleep is likely to exacerbate your fibromyalgia symptoms. Make sure that you enjoy a good night’s sleep before your flight to reduce the risk of a flare-up. Carry your pillow (especially if you use a contoured cervical pillow) with you to ensure that you get adequate sleep during your trip. You can also talk to your doctor about melatonin tablets or stronger sleep medications that you can use to prevent sleep problems while on vacation.

  • Carry a small travel pillow 

Invest in a good travel pillow and if you travel frequently, you might even want to consider a memory foam travel pillow. This will allow you to nap sporadically throughout the flight which will go a long way in preventing body aches and fatigue. If you suffer from low back pain, you can also carry an inflatable lumbar support pillow which will easily fit in your carry-on luggage.

  • Pack Clothing that can be layered

The temperature on a plane can be a lot colder than you expect which can lead to shivering which in turn, increases joint aches and pain. The easiest way to handle this problem is to pack clothing that can be layered. For instance, you can wear a comfortable shirt and carry a hoodie along so that you can use it if you start to feel cold. You can also pack a scarf or even a lightweight blanket to help you deal with the temperature change.

  • Carry plenty of protein-packed snacks

In-flight meals and snacks vary in size and quality across airlines and classes. Processed foods and snacks, especially those that have high sugar content might trigger a flare-up so it’s best to avoid them. High-protein snacks such as nuts and yogurt will provide energy boosts throughout your long-haul flight and prevent fatigue. 

  • Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress

Fibromyalgia flare-ups are often triggered by psychological stress. This is why it is important to stay calm and relaxed throughout your flight. Practice mindful meditation, breath focus or progressive muscle relaxation to lower your stress levels and avoid a flare-up. If you start to get stressed or worried, listen to an audio recording of a guided imagery session with your earbuds to help you calm down.

Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure or a little bit of both, make sure that you schedule your time with plenty of breaks to rest and regain your strength. Don’t try to push yourself in order to “get the most out of your trip” as overexerting can trigger a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms. A long-haul flight can be significantly more exhausting than a short-haul flight (especially with jetlag and related issues). This is why it is important to take preventative measures to reduce your discomfort and pain during and after your flight.


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