Don’t Let Arthritis Keep You From The Open Road

Car travel can be challenging for people with painful arthritic joints. We have guidelines to make your next road trip less painful and more enjoyable.

Open roads and beckoning vistas are the stuff of American legend. We love our road trips. Whether we are motoring over the river and through the woods for the holidays, or planning a weekend jaunt to a new city, road trips and adventure go hand in hand. But for people with arthritis, sliding behind the wheel can mean a lot less excitement and a lot more pain. The restricted physical space in a car and concerns about the journey can even trigger a flare.

But arthritis doesn’t have to prevent you from enjoying your next car trip. There are a number of things you can do to decrease stress, increase confidence and prepare for a comfortable trip. Planning in advance is the key. We’ve got some ideas to help make your next trip more relaxing and enjoyable.

  • Consult with your doctor. Your doctor or occupational therapist can tell you how many hours to spend behind the wheel before you need a break. They may have additional safety suggestions, like wearing compression socks to prevent blood clots.
  • Adjust your car to your physical needs. Check the position of the steering wheel, and consider a steering wheel cover if you need the extra girth to keep your hands comfortable. Adjust your car seat so that you have a clear line of sight, and can depress the gas pedal without overreaching. On a long trip, straining to keep your foot on the gas can cause hip discomfort. Check the position of the seat belt as well. The belt should cross your body at mid-shoulder, not up near your neck. These same preparation guidelines hold true if you are renting a car for your trip.
  • Drive with a friend. Taking turns behind the wheel gives the person in the passenger seat an opportunity to relax and stretch—and gives you help with directions. When you must drive solo, a GPS system is a good stand-in for navigational assistance.
  • Allow extra time. A prolonged static position is hard on arthritic joints. Plan to stop at least once every two hours to get out of your car to move and stretch. If you find yourself in pain, stop more frequently.
  • Pack to be prepared. Bring along hot and cold packs, head and neck pillows, medications, and any other aids that will make your trip more comfortable. If you anticipate that there may be delays during your trip, pack the physician’s contact details and medication refill information you’ll need. Have lots of water and healthy snacks in the car to help you stay hydrated and alert.
  • Make overnight stays a treat. If a hotel stay is part of your itinerary, pamper yourself. Book a hotel with a swimming pool or spa services. At the end of a long day on the road, a swim or massage will refresh swollen, stiff joints.

Part of the pleasure of a road trip is the sense of freedom you feel as you drive toward the horizon. With a bit of planning and an easy-does-it approach to your trip, you don’t have to let arthritis prevent you from enjoying the adventures of the road.


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