Travel with Osteoarthritis

Singaporeans are known as great travelers.  Unfortunately osteoarthritis can be as much a cause of anxiety as a source of pain when on holiday. With careful planning and preparation however, you can experience pain relief and many of your concerns can be alleviated, allowing you to get on with the main purpose of your trip – adventure, relaxation and enjoyment.

Here are some tips that will help ensure osteoarthritis doesn’t hold you back.


Pre-planning can make your trip less stressful and you less flustered, avoiding last minute panics or forgetting important items. Plan your trip according to your ability. Ancient Mayan ruins requiring a two hour trek through a humid jungle, or city walking tours over pebbled streets may not be suitable choices. Know what type of weather triggers your osteoarthritis pain and avoid it.
Prepare your travelling companion for the fact that you may not be able to do everything they want to do and will sometimes need to sit out for half a day.


Always make sure you’ve packed plenty of prescription medications, creams or support bandages for the entire length of your trip.

Take into account any possible delays or difficulty in finding a pharmacy where you are going. Pack a walking cane and ensure your luggage cases have wheels. Smaller travel bags should be light and convenient to carry. Make sure one bag is always easily accessible with any medication you use in the original packaging (should you need to replace it), a small amount of cash for tips and taxis, as well as any documents you might need access to like your passport, driving licence etc.


Flying can really take a heavy toll on osteoarthritis. Try to get a head start and beat the crowds, picking up tickets and boarding passes in advance and taking advantage of early boarding to avoid having to stand in long queues. Make an advanced request for the bulkhead aisle seat which has the most leg room – your travel agent can do that for you, or you can phone the airline directly.  Most airports (as with train stations in larger cities) will offer you wheelchair assistance. You can request this in advance when you buy your tickets, as well as asking cabin staff on board the plane to confirm that you will be met with a wheelchair on arrival. This service can also speed up passport control and check in processes. If you are changing flights allow a bit of extra time for layovers so you won’t be under pressure, even if the flight is delayed. Make sure you are dressed warmly, or have an extra blanket or shawl to wrap around you. Air conditioning is invariably on full blast during flights and many local and international airlines no longer hand out pillows and blankets so freely.


Be realistic about what you are comfortably able to do with osteoarthritis. Despite wanting to make the most of your holiday days, you’ll enjoy much more if you can avoid crippling pain from over-doing it. Whenever possible include plenty of relaxing activities like sitting and enjoying a view, spas, massage, swimming or relaxing on a beach. If you like to take a siesta then incorporate that into the schedule. Allow yourself recovery days both on arrival at your destination and when you reach home at the end of the trip.

Getting Around

Taking taxis for every short trip can be costly and is sometimes not practical, since you may spend just as long on your feet looking for a cab, or negotiating the fare.

Again careful planning is important. Wherever possible ask your hotel or travel agent to arrange advance bookings with reputable firms. In addition, well before you leave, resources like Google Maps can prove very useful in ascertaining distances and locating local taxi, bus, train or tram services.

Keep car and bus travel to a minimum and schedule plenty of rest-stops into the journey. With osteoarthritis long periods of sitting can cause stiffness. If you do need to make certain journeys by car then try to establish what type of road surface you’ll be travelling on and consider taking some pillows to make yourself more comfortable. Always be open to alternative routes, even if they are less direct, if you decide instead to take a train, at least you’ll be able to stretch your legs whenever you need to.

Staying Active

Whether you are pre or post a hip or knee replacement surgery, or find your osteoarthritis causes chronic pain, staying active and the importance of appropriate rehabilitative exercise cannot be overstated. Maintaining healthy joint movements as much as possible will make sure that travel doesn’t get beyond your reach, as well as ensuring pain from osteoarthritis doesn’t ruin a holiday. If you are an AposTherapy patient, your AposTherapist can advise you about incorporating therapy into your vacation without any disruption to your enjoyment or itinerary. Many of our current patients are enjoying their travel once again.  Call us to find out how you can once again be pain free to see the world.

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