Worried about your rheumatoid arthritis ruining your vacation away? Don’t despair! These tips will keep you having fun in the sun no matter what you do, minus the pain.
Getting ready for a summer of barbecues, car rides and trips to the beach? Sidestep rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-related joint pain and fatigue with these smart tips and strategies! If your vacation plans include…
Going to a barbecue
Fill up on fruit salad. “Take advantage of the plentiful berries, mangoes, papayas and bananas available in summertime,” says Richard Blau, MD, author of Too Young to Feel Old. “They’re full of antioxidants that help fight joint inflammation.”
Mix up a “Noni-tini!” Exotic noni berries are packed with antioxidants, and studies by French and German researchers suggest they may be helpful for alleviating arthritis-related symptoms, including swelling and inflammation. Find the juice in health-food stores and combine it with lemon-flavored sparkling water for a delicious mocktail!
Bring your own straw. If you have trouble holding heavy drinking glasses or beer mugs, use a long “bendy” straw that lets you lean over and take a sip without any heavy lifting!
Relaxing on the beach
Mind your medications. Slathering on sunscreen—at least a shot-glass-full for your body and a tablespoon for your face and neck—is critical for arthritis patients, who often take medications that cause photosensitivity, says Dr. Blau. “Methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine, for example, can cause severe skin reactions to the sun.”
Slip on a sunblock reminder. If you tend to forget about reapplying sunblock, pick up a fashionable “reminder accessory” that changes color after a few hours in sunlight. Fun examples include color-change bracelets, flip-flops, sunglasses and even nail polish! Prefer something more discreet? Try little stick-on UV patches that change color from nude to red as the sun’s rays get stronger.
Try trekking poles on the sand. Designed with pointy ends that dig into sand, trekking poles make it easier to enjoy long walks on the beach. Buy the lightest set you can find to prevent arm and wrist strain.
Add this to your lotion. For topical pain relief and a welcome cooling sensation, mix a few drops of menthol essential oil, derived from peppermint, into your body lotion, recommends Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, author of An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Arthritis. “You can also try a few drops of oil of camphor, a penetrating medicinal oil that helps to relieve pain in joints, ligaments and muscles.”
Long car rides
Turn on the radio. In a study done at the Cleveland Clinic of folks with RA, OA and disk problems, listening to music reduced pain by more than 20%. The best part? The type of music didn’t matter—so you’ll enjoy the benefits even if you don’t get to pick the station!
Push your seat back. Manipulate your seat to gain as much legroom as possible. Even if you don’t need the extra space, stretching your legs out in front of you every 20 minutes will prevent cramping and stiffness.
Protect your neck. The best neck pillows are inflatable rather than stuffed, since you can adjust them to the exact shape and volume you want.
Warm up your hands. Stash a pair of fingerless gloves in your bag to keep hands and wrists comfortable if the AC is on.
Exploring a new city
Scope out the elevation. While guidebooks and maps can help you gauge distance, to know how hilly your destination is, look at an aerial view or topographical map. You can also use the “Webcam” and “Terrain” features at maps.google.com before you leave.
Carry a “cane stool” for long lines. For $30-$40, you can pick up a cane that unfolds into a small, sturdy chair—perfect when you’re stuck waiting on line with no seating in sight!
Upgrade your day bag. If using a traditional backpack strains your arms and shoulders, switch to a dressy “belt bag”—an updated, stylish version of a fanny pack—or an ergonomic sling bag you can slide up and down your shoulder when needed.
Record memories with a camera extender. Shoulder pain can make it tricky to hold out a camera to take a photo of yourself and your buddies together, but new lightweight extenders let you photograph yourself anywhere.
Keep changing pace. “When you’re traveling in hot weather, frequently vary your pace, exerting yourself for a few minutes, then taking it easy for a longer stretch,” recommends Mary Felstiner, author of Out of Joint: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis. “Alternating your pace ‘fools your joints’ and gives you the most overall stamina.”
A trip to the spa or pool
Ask about tub accessibility. Looking forward to the hot tub or jet pool? Call ahead to make sure there are rails or steps that make them usable for you.
Try tai chi. According to the Journal of Rheumatology, tai chi’s gentle series of movements can relieve stiffness and make it easier to perform daily tasks.
Take a “water walking” class. Walking back and forth across a pool (on your own or in a guided class) gives you a great aerobic and muscle-building workout. And because of the water’s buoyancy, there’s no stress on your joints.