Up in the air: traveling with Psoriatic Arthritis

The holiday season is in full swing and, if you’re anything like us, then you’re dreaming of your next vacation. Perhaps the sunny beaches in Hawaii are calling your name? Are you itching to explore the ancient sites of Rome? Or embark on a culinary trek through China? So many adventures out there, and often the most tempting are on the other side of the world.

The thought of being trapped on a plane for hours isn’t exactly thrilling for anybody – yawn! – but if you’re living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) then it can be even more challenging. There may be a few more things to consider before boarding a long distance flight. But not to worry – with the right preparation, the time up in the air will just fly by!

Truth or myth?

You may have heard that joint pain can be worsened by the low pressure in airplane cabins,1 but is this true or just an urban myth? As a plane climbs in altitude, the pressure in the cabin drops lower, to the point where it’s the same as it would be at deep sea level2. This is thought to cause the gases and fluids in and around your joints to expand, putting pressure on the nerves and leading to joint pain1. Although some studies have shown a link between air pressure and joint pain in certain arthritic conditions2, research on the impact of air pressure on joint pain specifically in PsA is still missing.

Busting your long-haul travel woes

Although there isn’t a proven link between air travel and PsA flare-ups, sitting motionless in a cramped seat for hours isn’t likely to do any good for stiff and aching joints! To avoid getting too “rusty” on your trip make sure you get up and move around on the plane. Booking an aisle seat is great for ensuring that you can get out regularly without having to bother your neighbour. Simple exercises are also a great way to keep your joints happy. Try to raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor, and then do the opposite by raising and lowering your heels while your toes stay on the floor3.

If you commonly use heat or cool packs then bring them on your trip to ease aches or pains4. Remember to confirm with the airline before traveling what can or can’t be taken on board.

Some people with PsA also develop a condition called spondylitis, which causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and pelvis, resulting in lower back pain5. If this is something that you experience then asking the cabin crew for extra pillows will give your back additional support.

Planning is key

Have you ever planned a major event, only for your body to decide to go on strike at the most inconvenient moment, resulting in a major flare-up of your PsA? Flare-ups can be triggered by stress6, so your body will thank you for a seamlessly planned journey. That means being well prepared and confirming all open questions with your airline before you embark on your next adventure. With the right groundwork, unforeseen issues are less likely to get in your way. So fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the flight. Bon voyage!


1 Website “The Muscle Clinic” – Is there a link between cold weather and muscle and joint pain? Last accessed: 28.04.16. http://www.muscleclinic.co.uk/link-cold-weather-and-muscle-and-joint-pain/

2 Website “World Health Organization” – International Travel and Health. Cabin Air Pressure. Last accessed: 28.04.16. http://www.who.int/ith/mode_of_travel/cab/en/

3 Website “The Muscle Clinic” – Is there a link between cold weather and muscle and joint pain? Last accessed: 28.04.16. http://www.muscleclinic.co.uk/link-cold-weather-and-muscle-and-joint-pain/

4 Website “Arthritis-health” – 11 Tips for Flying with Arthritis. Last accessed: 28.04.16. http://www.arthritis-health.com/blog/11-tips-flying-arthritis

5 Website “Mayo Clinic” – Psoriatic Arthritis, Symptoms. Last accessed: 28.04.16. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriatic-arthritis/basics/symptoms/con-20015006

6 Website “Healthline” – Understanding Moderate to Severe Psoriatic Arthritis Flare-Ups. Last accessed: 28.04.16. http://www.healthline.com/health/psoriatic-arthritis/understanding-flare-ups#Overview1

Parenting and PsA

Me, my mom and PsA

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