Six Tips for Flying with Knee Pain

There are multiple causes for knee pain.

Knee pain sure can crimp (and cramp) any boomer’s travel plans.

Flying with knee pain requires travelers to think and plan ahead, and to be prepared to make the best of a bad situation.

It turns out that knee pain is one of most common ailments, accounting for about 1 in 3 of doctor visits for all bone or muscular problems. There are many causes for this common condition, including injuries and medical conditions, which are better explained on medical sites like the Mayo Clinic and WebMD. But this post is focusing on managing knee pain when you fly.

Unfortunately, I have first-person experience in flying with knee pain. As we were about to leave for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, the pain in my right knee suddenly (and uncharacteristically) flared up so badly I thought I would cry. I already knew I had two tears in my meniscus and a bit of arthritis–but before this, the pain was under control.

The night before we were to travel, I was in so much pain I couldn’t climb the stairs or pack. All I could do was treat my knee pain symptomatically and wait for it to subside. My BFF Betty came over the evening before to help me pack–just in case we could make it the next day.

Almost like a miracle (or perhaps, because of the icing and anti-inflammatories I had taken), the pain lifted late that evening. Here are some of the tips I learned about managing knee pain when flying:

1) Know the reason for your pain

If you have pain, you obviously need to have it diagnosed. In my case it took an MRI to determine the source. Having that diagnosis and consulting with my internist allowed me to know what I should or shouldn’t do—and what might exacerbate the pain.

Since my doctor had already taken an African safari, of course, his sage advice was: Don’t miss it if you can possibly go. I decided to follow doctor’s orders!

2) Secure an aisle seat

When flying with knee pain, it’s best to have room to extend your affected leg on long flights. If you can pay for extra legroom (aka premium seating), it’s worthwhile.

Regardless, try to reserve an aisle seat so you can extend your leg (of course, depending on the site of your knee pain, you’ll choose one side of the aisle or another).

Check out to find out the pitch and width of the seat you’re reserving and try to elevate your leg whenever and to whatever extent possible.

3) Don’t be embarrassed to reserve a wheelchair at the airport

Before you travel, call your air carrier and request a wheelchair or lightweight transport chair. This was a first for me so, of course, I was a bit embarrassed but I was more concerned about re-injury than vanity, and worried about that awful pain flaring up again. Believe me, the wheelchair escort was a lifesaver in making the long trek from one terminal at Heathrow to another.

4) Get up and stretch during the flight

With center aisles seeming to get narrower and narrower, it can be challenging to walk the aisle. But since you have an aisle seat, get up to stretch your leg muscles at least several times during the flight. (It also helps prevent deep vein thrombosis).

5) Wear comfortable shoes

Getting to and through an airport involves plenty of walking so be sure to wear comfortable fitting shoes that offer support.

6) Keep pain relief in your back pocket

If your physician has prescribed anti-inflammatories or painkillers, be sure to carry an adequate supply with you, just in case. I also took along a reusable icepack, which I wound up “gifting” to another traveler who injured her ankle. If your doctor has suggested you use a knee brace, take it along, too. Even if you don’t use any of these supplies, they’ll surely provide peace of mind.

Also on More Time to Travel  

This post is part of a linkup with Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Mondays.

 Any hints to share on flying with knee pain?

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