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Airplane Travel Tips?

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Old 08-09-2007, 07:07 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: NJ
Posts: 498
schragie HB User
Airplane Travel Tips?

Hey Back-pain brethren:

Haven't been here in a while, but am 16-months post L5-S1 fusion and doing more or less okay. I hope the rest of my fusion-buddies on these board are faring well. I still have pain flareups and stiffness in my back, but am off pain meds for a few months at a time (until the next flare up occurs). So far, not too shabby!

My issue is this -- I have two fusions actually (one neck, one back) and the one thing I absolutely cannot do without pain is take an airplane trip. I don't know if its the barometric pressure or what, but I don't lift luggage, use a pillow, do everything "right" and then suffer for one-two weeks post each leg of my trip. Since the back fusion I have only gone on 3-hour flights to Florida (no picnic) but I have a 12-hour flight coming up next week and I'm scared!

I called my surgeon for pain meds and asked for a muscle relaxant too to see if that might help while in transit. Getting up and walking around is near impossible on a crowded plane and travelling first class isnt an option. I don't particularly hurt a lot while in transit -- but the effects of the travel linger, as I mentioned, for weeks. And I HATE being on pain meds because then I forget what happened on my trip. LOL!

Any suggestions on how to help myself? Anyone have this experience too? My back/leg pain is more or less manageable these days and affected by three things: weather, flying, and walking uphill.

Worst of all, the flight I booked is crowded and only a middle seat in the last row was available. Eeeep! I am going to go to the airport early and beg for a better seat. I don't know what will be worse -- the back pain or sitting next to the stinky bathroom for a 12 hour flight!

Thanks for any suggestions you might have and I wish all of you well.

4/2006:TLIF L5/S1
2002: C4-5 herniation
1/1999: ACDF C5-C7

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Old 08-10-2007, 12:20 PM   #2
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Re: Airplane Travel Tips?

I posted while ago on tip i was told about while traveling on airplain.
For people who had spinal surgery is a must: wear tight stockings (buy them at pharmacy or Doctor can order them for you) from toes to pelvic area to prevent blood clots.
I met here people whose Doctors did not mention this to them, but i heard this from couple of them and also i read on web related to spine problems (according to the rules i can't say which one exactly, but you can find this info if you search).

Old 08-10-2007, 03:00 PM   #3
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Re: Airplane Travel Tips?

Call the airline and tell them you have a disability that requires a pre-board and the bulkhead seat. The bulkhead seats are where the emergency doors are, so you have to be able to move in case of emegency, blind people and minors under 16 arent allowed to have it for that reason.

It has at least twice as much leg room as any other seat, it makes standing and getting on or off or going to the restroom much much easier.

Make sure your meds are in your carry on, in a fanny pack or purse with a zipper on it. Never let your meds out of your sight, do not put them in the overhead. Keep them in your lap or on the floor in between your feet. If you go to the restroom, take them with you. When you get where you are going, make sure you lock your meds in the room safe, dont even leave them out to take a shower, a vacation can turn into a nightmare if you are stuck in a strange city with no meds.

I can manuver pretty well, but I have a lot of back pain, so I usually ask for a preboard and then take the seat in front of the bulkhead, I miss out on the leg room, but no one kicks the back of my seat and I can adjust the seat as often as I want without bothering the person behind me.

Hope this helps, have a great trip!

Old 08-10-2007, 04:40 PM   #4
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: NJ
Posts: 498
schragie HB User
Re: Airplane Travel Tips?

Thanks for the advice! I wonder whether you can get the emergency exit seat if you say you have a back disability, but I will certainly try! When I booked my reservation those seats were already taken, but maybe they'll kick someone out for poor old me.

I totally understand what you said about meds. I called my surgeon and got a prescription for 8 flexirils (to try a muscle relaxant while in flight) and for 40 Vicodens which will likely last my 10-day trip if I need them but won't last for the week or two of pain I will likely have aftrer the flight back. I wonder why they were so stingy, but I can always call for more if I need them I guess.

I hide my medications at all times. If people are in my house --even family or friends -- I don't want them to have access to it. I've learned the hard way. Luckiliy I don't have to take too much heavy-duty medication anymore, and anyone is welcome to take my aspirin.

I'm going to pack my TENS unit too just in case though I haven't used it in ages.

I'll be staying with family in Israel who claim to have aero-beds but I'm just going to have to kick one of their kids out of his bed cause there's no way I'm sleeping on a blow-up mattress on the floor. Yipes!

As for the tight stockings, boy does that sound uncomfortable! Will ask my doc about it.

Thank you VERY much for the advice.
4/2006:TLIF L5/S1
2002: C4-5 herniation
1/1999: ACDF C5-C7

Old 08-11-2007, 08:32 AM   #5
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Justoneofus HB User
Re: Airplane Travel Tips?

Hey there! Long time no hear! Glad you are doing okay though. I have been doing really really well myself. Im having my first minor flare up in awhile, and hope that is all it is. But otherwise, life has been very good to me. I'm working full-time, returned to college again, doing gardening again, some small do-it-yourself house stuff, etc. So I can't complain. (My only downer was losing one of our dogs to a very rare disease (basically lupus) a week ago today. He suffered with it for 3months and it unexpectedly took his life, even though the mortality rate for this was 60%. He literally walked into the vets office on his own after having a little pee outside beforehand, laid on the floor and had a heart attack and died right in the vets office. He just turned 7. He was a major family member here. We really miss him.)

Wow.. going to Isreal. I hear that is an awesome trip. You are right about the emergency exit seats. We fusion folks dont really qualify to sit there. Those are reserved for healthy folks willing to help out on the plane in the event of an emergency. BUT, I would call your airline and let them know you have a physical issue that requires you to be able to get up at any given moment to adjust your spine, and could they give you an isle seat. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the people on the plane. If need be, ask a flight attendant to assist you in finding a passenger willing to swap seats with you. There is bound to one or more on that full flight. I know I've often given up my isle seats to those in more need than myself.

DO take your TENS unit gal (and dont forget several batteries!). Do you have any lidocaine patches you can take along too? Or.. some Biofreeze? Neither are curealls but they often help give some extra relief when needed. I would take more stuff than you need, just in case! And I never put my personal stuff in my luggage. I keep it in my carry-on, ALWAYS. At least i know that stuff won't end up in Australia, when I am going to Maine! lol.

You know I have the same thoughts on the stockings. I remember pantyhose and them around my waist long ago, and the thought of those putting pressure on my lumbar spine is not an appealing thought at all. Plus HOT!!!

Good to hear from you. Have a GREAT trip and give us an update when you get back. Would be good to hear how you do. All the best to you gal!!
"believe in the beauty of your dreams"- E. Roosevelt

L5/S1 bulging @ 18, now 46; still there (but no pain)
Fusion at L4/L5 Apr -2006
Solidly Fused Nov-2006
A Success, but still improving!

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