Tips for Managing Pain During Long Flights: Take Medication in Advance

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Tips for Managing Pain During Long Flights Take Medication in Advance
Photo: Unsplash/Suhyeon Choi

Long flights can be a test of endurance for anyone, but for those dealing with chronic pain or discomfort, they can be particularly challenging.

Managing pain effectively during a long journey can make the difference between arriving at your destination exhausted or ready to explore.

Here are some tips to help you manage pain during long flights, including the crucial step of taking medication in advance.

1. Take Medication in Advance

One of the most important steps in managing pain during a long flight is to take your pain medication before the discomfort begins.

This proactive approach ensures that the medication is working by the time you start feeling the effects of the flight.

Medication Tips

  • Consult Your Doctor: Before traveling, talk to your healthcare provider about your upcoming flight and discuss the best pain management strategy.
  • Timing: Take your medication 30 minutes to an hour before boarding to give it time to take effect.
  • Dosage: Follow your prescribed dosage instructions carefully to avoid taking too much or too little.
  • Bring Extras: Carry extra medication in your carry-on bag in case of flight delays or other unexpected events.

2. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can exacerbate pain, especially joint and muscle pain. The low humidity in airplane cabins can lead to dehydration, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before and during your flight.

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Hydration Tips

  • Water Intake: Aim to drink at least 8 ounces of water every hour during the flight.
  • Avoid Dehydrating Drinks: Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and sugary beverages, as these can contribute to dehydration.
  • Bring a Reusable Bottle: Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it up after passing through security. Many airports have water stations available.

3. Stretch and Move Regularly

Sitting in one position for long periods can lead to stiffness and increased pain. Regular movement and stretching can help alleviate discomfort and improve circulation.

Movement Tips

  • Set a Timer: Set a timer on your phone to remind you to get up and move every hour.
  • In-Seat Exercises: Perform simple in-seat exercises like ankle circles, knee lifts, and shoulder rolls to keep your muscles engaged.
  • Walk the Aisle: Whenever possible, take a short walk up and down the aisle to stretch your legs and back.

4. Use Supportive Devices

Use Supportive Devices
Photo: Pixabay/Mxh6789

Supportive devices like neck pillows, lumbar cushions, and compression socks can make a significant difference in your comfort level during a flight.

Support Device Tips

  • Neck Pillow: Use a neck pillow to support your head and reduce strain on your neck.
  • Lumbar Cushion: A lumbar cushion can provide lower back support and help maintain proper posture.
  • Compression Socks: Wear compression socks to improve circulation and reduce the risk of swelling and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
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5. Apply Heat or Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy can be effective in managing pain, especially for conditions like arthritis or muscle spasms.

While you can’t bring a heating pad or ice pack on the plane, there are portable alternatives.

Heat and Cold Therapy Tips

  • Heat Wraps: Use disposable heat wraps that can be applied to sore areas for several hours of relief.
  • Cold Packs: Bring instant cold packs that activate with a squeeze for on-the-go cold therapy.
  • Gel Packs: If you have access to a refrigerator at your departure or destination, consider gel packs that can be heated or cooled as needed.

6. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Stress and anxiety can intensify pain. Practicing relaxation techniques can help you stay calm and manage your pain more effectively during the flight.

Relaxation Tips

  • Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your mind and relax your muscles.
  • Meditation: Use meditation apps or guided relaxation recordings to help you stay focused and relaxed.
  • Visualization: Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pain-free environment to distract your mind from discomfort.


Managing pain during long flights requires a combination of proactive measures and in-flight strategies.

By taking your medication in advance, staying hydrated, moving regularly, using supportive devices, applying heat or cold therapy, and practicing relaxation techniques, you can make your journey more comfortable and arrive at your destination ready to enjoy your trip. Safe travels!

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