Going on vacation should reduce pain and relieve stress, not cause it. Traveling can bring an avalanche of hurdles when you’re living with chronic pain. As I begin planning for summer travel, one of my goals is to ensure my journey is comfortable. Here are is what I’ve learned about staying pain free on vacation.

Before travel

1. Plan for enjoyment. The idea of just getting up and going on a vacation seems attractive. However, if you suffer from pain, it’s better to come in prepared. Taking some time to plan your trip may save you a whole lot of stress and aches in the long run. If planning itself is stressful for you, break it up into several short planning sessions over a few days.

2. Find a pain-friendly adventure. Creating an adventure that doesn’t aggravate pain means balancing activity with relaxation. After all, you want to create good memories instead of flare-ups. Make an itinerary that is consistent with the amount of activity you can manage in your daily life. If you amp up the activity, remember to also amp up the relaxed pampering.

3. Set expectations with friends and family. Talking with your vacation buddies about expectations and practical limitations can be helpful. Sometimes friends and family are so excited that they plan for more than is healthy for you. Since you are your own pain expert, it is important to communicate your needs. This way you can prevent flare-ups and have an enjoyable time away. Planning for relaxing alternatives and/or breaks is healthy, and you might be surprised how many companions are ready to join you for some peace and quiet after a few days of being on the go nonstop.

4. Pre-arrange any required accommodations or travel requirements.Make calls (airline, bus line, train agency, hotels, cruise lines, hotel) ahead of time and discuss how your health condition may require additional services. That may mean assistance with luggage, boarding early, or storage of medical devices.

It is helpful to ask airlines if you need to arrive early due to any assistance you need. You also want to make sure any items you want to carry on the plane are allowed (see item 8 below). For example, some airlines may not allow reusable instant heat pads or ice packs. Alternatively, you can ask if they would be willing to fill a hot water bag for you or give you some ice cubes to put in a zip lock for a DIY ice pack.

If you’re taking a taxi, call them up and ask if the driver can help carry bags (or any medical devices, wheel chair, etc.) and if they have the space or comforts you need.

5. Get a doctor’s note for your medication. Although most pill bottles come with your name and doctor’s information, for people with chronic pain that may mean carrying multiple bottles and this might trigger extra scrutiny if you’re traveling on a plane. I have found that getting on board is faster with a simple letter from my doctor that lists all my medication. It is also a good idea to check if your medications are legal in the destination. If not, it may be better for you to ask for an alternative from your doctor. Also remember to ask your doctor how to adjust dosing to match altered sleeping and eating patterns during your vacation.

6. The emotional support pet option for air travel. Generally, airlines are not fond of allowing pets in the cabin. However, since pets are quite good antidotes for depression, you may qualify to have your furry friend sit with you on the plane. There are airlines that allow pets to come with you on your journey. For this option, may need a letter from your doctor stating that your pet offers emotional support. It may make a world of difference to you, so call your airline and ask if this is a possibility.

Your Packing Checklist

7. Pack your luggage light and focus on comfort. Have loose fitting clothing and good walking shoes for your trip.

8. Put comfort in your carry-on as well. Comfortable items aren’t any help to you if you cannot access them when you need them. Make sure to keep quick comforts at hand by loading your carry-on luggage with goodies such as:

Back/ neck support pillows
Hot/cold packs (check with airline in advance)
Audio pain relief tools: Breathing/hypnosis/relaxation exercises on your playlist
Eye mask
Ear plugs
Chewing gum or decongestant for ear pain

9. Pack your own headphones. The headphones available on planes/trains are usually of poor quality. Noise-canceling headphones and in-ear headphones are great and can help block out external noises.

10. Take your medications, doctor’s note, and emergency contact info. Be sure to take enough medication for your entire trip and a little extra should your return be delayed. Add an emergency contact and your doctor’s phone number to all your luggage tags and wallet.

While Traveling

11. Remember to stretch. Before boarding, take time to stretch at the gate so you’re as relaxed as possible. During flights, get up or do seated exercises to help you from getting stiff limbs or aches. You can also download an stretches worksheet to print and take with you on your vacation.

12. Get sleep on long journeys. Wear your ear plugs and mask and try to get some sleep. Time your sleep with the time at your destination. Try not to drink alcohol since it dehydrates and makes it harder to get a good sleep.

13. Eat healthy. Nutritious food will insure you have energy and your body feels good. It will also help you avoid gaining any vacation pounds. Remember to be watchful of foods that increase your pain while dining out. Don’t hesitate to ask about ingredients if need be.

14. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can effect mood, cause headaches, and can ruin your trip. Even when jet-lagged, do not drink more caffeinated drinks than you would normally. Drink enough water before starting your trip and during your travel to stay well hydrated.

15. Remember to be flexible. Pain can be triggered by things outside your control, so having a flexible mindset can help should challenges arise.

Have a great vacation!

*This post was submitted for the PFAM Blog carnival hosted by Maria at My Life Works Today. I’m sure it will be a great carnival, so be sure to check out her page on May 25th!

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Having chronic pain in my wrist and arms means that I had to make modifications to how I work on my computer. I have been using voice recognition software since I developed chronic pain.

Now that I’m using my voice instead of typing, I want to make sure that I don’t overuse my voice and cause damageonce bitten, twice shy. After some research, here my top 10 tips for protecting your voice.

1. Keep hydrated

Drink plenty of water and have it ready while dictating. Water keeps your larynx hydrated and throat feeling good. Not all kinds of drinks are good, though. Try to avoid drinks that could dehydrate you (e.g., alcohol, coffee, cola) as the loss of fluids dries out your voice. Furthermore, some alcoholic drinks can irritate the mucous membranes in your throat.

2. Eat foods that help your voice

It’s important to be mindful of what you eat as food can effect your voice. Professor Scott of Western Washington University suggests including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. According to Scott, these foods contain vitamins A, C, and E that help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy. Also, the British Voice Association claims that spicy food and dairy can cause your voice to change from its regular sound.

3. Be in a sound environment

Try to avoid situations or places where you come in contact with throat irritants such as dust, chemical solvents, second hand smoke and so on. Getting a humidifier might be a good idea, because steam is soothing to the throat and can reduce swelling and irritation. Another thing to consider is the noise level in the your environment. Noise can dramatically affect how accurately your voice recognition software can detect speech as well as effect how you use your voice. Try to find a quiet setting and consider using a headset with a built-in noise-canceling microphone to get the best results. But that’s just a half of the story: in a noisy environment, people tend to speak louder which is stressful to ones voice over long periods of time.

4. Body and mind affect your voice

Your feelings and emotions can cause strain or change the tone of your voice. First, be sure to get help if you feel too much stress, anxiety, or depression as all of these emotions have physical effects on your body. Second, it is important to get enough rest as physical fatigue can have a negative effect on your voice. Third, take care of any bodily tension with relaxation and/or movement exercises. Tension in your body can affect your larynx and, consequently, your voice.

5. Breath

You can speak only as well as you breathe. You need to supply your body with ample air in order to power your talking. Sometimes speakers hurt their voices because they aren’t breathing deeply enough. Check out Gwen Bruno’s excellent breathing exercises.

6. Be mindful of posture

Good posture is important for clear vocalization. Poor posture can put a strain in your voice as well as change the way you breathe while talking. The Alexander Technique can provide much needed guidance and help with this issue.

7. Warm up your voice

Vocal warm-ups are important if you plan on using your voice for a long time. Non-profit, Voicecare, offers a nice worksheet to help you get warmed up.

8. Don’t abuse your voice

Many things are bad for your voice and should be outright avoided. If you smoke, being kind to your voice is one more reason to quit. I know it is easier said than done for smokers, so please be sure to get support from others to help you quit. Secondly, how you use your voice is important. Try to avoid talking in really loud events where you are forced to yell to get heard. Lastly, do not clear your throat unnecessarily as this can unnecessarily strain your voice. Have a sip of water instead.

9. Try not to overuse your voice

Rest your voice before and after speaking. As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

10. Be mindful of changes in your voice

Try not to talk or whisper if you’re losing your voice. Instead, give your voice time to heal if you have overused it. If your voice sounds different from usual or hurts, seek medical attention. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Before ending this post, I thought you might all appreciate a little speech recognition humor. Although speech recognition software can be quite good these days, there are moments that can get to us all. Here is a fun video about speech recognition technology in an elevator.

I hope you find my tips useful. Do let me know of any other tips that have helped you.


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If you’re like me, you enjoy nature. You are keenly aware that it has many benefits for your health and you appreciate its magnificencebut recognize that you don’t get enough of it. (Except ants. I’m not a big fan of nature when it comes in uninvited.) In the last few weeks, I’ve searched ways to bring nature home and here are my top tips.

1. Use a projector for indoor nature vistas

Brining the beauty from outside has become easier with technology. For example, my husband thought it would be nice to create our own indoor nature retreat. To do this, he used our home movie projector to display an amazing view of the ocean on our bedroom wall.

But don’t get discouraged if you don’t have access to a projector. Another option is to hook up your computer to a TV or just put on a nature video full-screen on your computer. Here is one of my favorite video of ocean waves to relax with.

2. Enjoy the sounds of nature

Listening to natural sounds can do marvels for your well-being! You can close your eyes and instantly be transported to another world. Sounds of nature provide an easy way to relax your body and can be a nice complement to meditation and relaxation exercises. I’ve also found that using noise-isolating/canceling headphones helps me to hone in on the sounds while blocking distractions.

A really neat website, Nature Sounds for Me, allows you to create your own nature audio file. After making your custom-made nature sounds, you can listen to or download the audio file. If you don’t feel like making your own audio, you can simply check out what other people have put together.

3. Literally bring nature indoors

Adding plants and elements of nature to your home (flowers, stones, herb garden, etc.) helps to bring more oxygen to your environment, beautify your space, and emotionally brighten your day. Business owner and environmental activist Kamal Meattle created wonders at the Paharpur Business Centre with indoor plants. He demonstrated that by incorporating three common houseplants into your office or home, you can measurably create cleaner air indoors. For more information, be sure to check out Mr. Meattle’s TED talk.

Sometimes you might even find little gifts from nature that you can bring indoors. Things like feathers, cast off branches, foliage, or other tidbits can bring nature home and remind us of what our earth has to offer.

4. Add nature imagery to working spaces

Even small things like computer desktop images can help you reap the benefits of nature. Doing a Google image search with the words “desktop nature” can give you a selection of desktop pictures to choose from.

5. Consider decorative items that incorporate nature

Nature themed artwork and furniture are lovely ways to adorn your space and put you back in touch with nature. Things like entire wall natural birch forest mural or a lovely cherry blossom decal can change the feel of a room.

6. Let the sunshine in

Sunlight is necessary for health (source of vitamin D) and it can uplift your spirits. Sunshine is also great for preventing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So go ahead and open up your windows to let some rays in.

If you live in a place with little sunshine, consider getting energy-efficient full spectrum lightbulbs. They can be cheaper than traditional SAD therapy lamps and can be used as regular lighting to bright up your space and your mood indoors.

7. Smell nature

The sense of smell is a powerful way to connect with nature at home and even get some pain relief. Think of natural scents that you find pleasing and explore ways you can bring those smells home. I love using an aromatherapy oil warmer with natural essential oils. My favorites are bergamot , lavender, and lemongrass.

8. Be on the look out for new ways to bring nature home

Use your creativity and curiosity to find new ways to connect with naturethis article is just a starting point. Sometimes being open to new things can help you come up with a fantastic new do-it-yourself solution that brings a bit of much-needed nature inside despite the odds.

This happened to Ryan Hoagland who came up with the Winscape to open up a windowless room. This novel creation can turn your HDTV into a virtual reality window that offers you gorgeous scenery.

Check out Ryan’s work at Rational Craft (including instructions on how build a Winscape of your own).

So there you have it folks, my 8 tips to bring nature home. If you found this post interesting, check out my post on how nature does a body good.

May nature be with you,

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Virtual Nature to the Pain Rescue!

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People often talk about the healing power of nature, and I am a big believer of this. I love the ocean and miss walks on the beachthey always made me feel more at ease and lifted my spirits. Unfortunately, living in a colder climate makes such walks a freezing ordeal rather than a pleasant stroll.
Imagine [...]

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Relaxing with Nature Does a Body Good

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Part of coping with pain or health difficulties includes having a self-care regimen that does your body and mind good. For me, I’ve always found that being out in nature has a way of making me feel restored. This is more than just a personal opinion: research shows that nature helps us feel better.
A [...]

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PFAM Carnival: Is Help a Four Letter Word?

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Welcome to the PFAM’s Blog Carnival! I am very excited to host this edition with the theme: “Is Help A Four Letter Word?” There was an amazing response and I’ve discovered a number of blogs I’ll be sure to follow (and hope you will too).
A good place to start with our theme [...]

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Asking For Help Can Be Hard To Do

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“Why don’t you just ask me to open it?” During the early days of my injury, this was something I hated to hear whenever I needed a bottle, jar, or even a heavy door opened. Asking for help felt like I’d be a bother and I was letting my pain winas if I was [...]

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Call for Submissions: Patients for a Moment Blog Carnival

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone, help.
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.
Help me if you can, I’m feeling [...]

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Pain: what does guilt have to do with it?

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Feelings of guilt are familiar to people who suffer from chronic pain. In this post I hope to update you on what science has to say about this all too common feeling.
What is guilt exactly?
Guilt is a complex emotion, and scientists have many views of it, depending their area of expertise. Researchers Hochwarter and Byrne [...]

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Pain Medication Can Compromise Your Flu Shot

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If you’re thinking of getting a flu shot, you may want to consider the impact of your pain medication on its effectivity. Professor Richard P. Phipps from the University of Rochester states, “research shows that pain relievers interfere with the effect of the vaccine.”
Many of the pain medicines examined by Dr. Phillips are anti-inflammatory, for [...]

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