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Thinking of taking a trip overseas? For those who suffer from complex regional pain syndrome/reflex sympathetic dystrophy (CRPS/RSD), this can be a painful proposition.

Extended travel is particularly difficult for those dealing with chronic pain, given the shrinking legroom and lack of flexibility airline seats provide. Here are some tips from CRPS/RSD sufferer Katelyn O’Leary that will help make a long trip bearable so that you can arrive at your destination as prepared and pain-free as possible:

  • Pack Ziploc bags for ice in your carryon luggage, as most planes probably won’t have them and you don’t want to get caught without a means to apply an ice pack if necessary.
  • Don’t bring a gel ice pack on the plane – airport security will likely pat you down and search you if you try to, and even the lightest touch can lead to excruciating pain if you’re a CRPS/RSD sufferer.
  • Invest in a filtered water bottle if you’re traveling to a country with unsafe drinking water. These bottles have a built in filter that will block 99 percent of the bacteria that can enter your body via drinking water, which is essential for taking pain medication.
  • Don’t stand in long lines at the airport– always request a wheelchair. It will allow you to skip the regular security line and advance to your flight more quickly.
  • Because air travel is dehydrating, if you are taking opiate medication, make sure you also pack laxatives, probiotics, and stool softeners to ease your digestive system’s transition to a different country, with different foods, weather conditions, and air quality.
  • Don’t forget hand sanitizer, wet wipes, toilet paper, and extra copies of your passport. Depending upon where you’re going, the public restrooms in some countries do not provide hand soap and toilet paper in their restrooms.

Most CRPS/RSD patients will admit that they dislike traveling, but missing family events and being unable to vacation abroad if given the chance can prove to be extremely painful as well. So plan ahead and don’t let CRPS/RSD hold you back.



  1. Gravatar for patpacer

    If touched by security I would scream so bad I would not be allowed on the flight. Using ICE on CRPS is even worst than being touched. Can you board an airplane on an electric wheelchair? Thank you for all the information & work you do on rsd crps for patients.

  2. Gravatar for Dr. Michael Cooney
    Dr. Michael Cooney

    Having treated many international patients with CRPS and RSD,I will be happy to share your article. I would only add to ensure the flight attendant team is aware of your condition and any special needs you may have while in flight. Patients have told me that in most cases, the staff tries to be as accommodating as possible.

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