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flying overseas, need advice since I can't sit

sotiredssotired Posts: 29
Had fusion of L5/S1 two years ago. Had hardware removed Nov last year and had surgry to repair csf leak Jan this year.

At this time I am unable to sit,walk, or stand for more than 15 mins, due to bad leg and groin pain.

I'm on oxycodone 15mg, lyrica 300mg, cymbalta 90mg, xanaflex, ambien, lortab, and volteran gel.

This flight is necesary due to my husbands new job. My biggest concern is the 3hours prior to the flight. I'm going to dip into or savings and fly business class so I can lay down on the flight.

Any ideas or thoughts would be appreciated.


  • A memory foam specifically for the seat of your car. It would probably fit well for the seat of the plane..it couldn't hurt. For me, I would need a small pillow behind my lumbar area, and around my neck also. The memory foam and the small pillow would be helpful at the airport while you wait. Does walking help you? I would have to walk from time to time.

  • Hi - I travelled by plane last year - domestic. I did curbside check in. I had no hand luggage. I could have had a wheelchair, which the airport provides, plus they give you a staff member who pushes it. (Call ahead if you want this.) The wheelchairs go through a different security to the regular people. I was at JFK, and I did not use the wheelchair, but the little cars they have to take you around. DO NOT UNDERSTIMATE THE HUGE DISTANCES YOU NEED TO COVER IN AN AIRPORT, IF YOU'RE FLYING FROM SOME MAJOR AIRPORT.

    When I got to security, I told them I had a disability and could not wait in line (it was one of those curvy lines) - they put me on the wheelchair line, but this was superslow because they have to check all the wheelchairs to make sure they're not bombs or something. So again - I told them "I have a disability, I cannot wait in this line". I went straight to the front - over the grannies, other disabled, etc.

    When they were loading the plane, again I told them I have disability and I wanted to get on first (so people would not bump me, etc.) I was in coach, but went in first, with the first class folks. If you can't afford first or biz. class, sitting at the bulkhead (no-one in front of you) is good - because you have lots of leg room and can get up easily (aisle seat).

    Let your husband do the lining up or whatever as much as possible - focus on getting yourself to the gate, and he can always catch up with you.

    While you're waiting for the plane, bring a yoga mat and lie down if you can't bear sitting/walking around - I have no shame in these situations.

    Even so - the whole thing can get quite painful, and I was very drugged up to cope with it all. When I came back home, I slept like 18 hours, so make sure you give yourself a lot of recovery time.

    Good luck.

  • Thank you. I logged on specifically looking for travel advice. I feel ok if I'm lying down, walking, or standing, but sitting for several hours is a struggle.

    Flying to Hawaii in June and a little worried about the long flight. I'll put lumbar pillow and yoga mat on my pack list!

    Any other advice to make sitting more pleasant would be appreciated!
  • thanks for the good ideas. the flight is only 3 weeks away and i'm so scared to go through with it. 15 mg oxycodone is offering no pain relief at all. zanaflex either totally knocks me out or does nothing, which is always a surprise.
  • Flying is very manageable with a bit of advanced preparation. I have done many International trips requiring an average of 30 hours travel one way with the longest leg being a 16 hour trans-Pacific flight.

    First off when booking tickets (or even after you book them) call the airlines and request "medical assistance". This will be recorded on the passenger manifest, so the flight crew and boarding crew will know to have a wheel chair and also look to board you early and provide assistance. This will help with having assistance from check in, through security, boarding as well as during the flight. This is really important at airports where there's a big distance between gates if you have to do any transfers.

    Another thing that is helpful, is a letter from your doc on official letter head explaining that you need to move around, stretch out and when possible walk. Providing this letter to the purser when you board, allows them to coordinate with the rest of the flight crew so that there's no confusion and you are provided consistent aid.

    I also ask the doc for some pain meds and something to relax me for the flight and a few days after the flight. Depending on the meds I am already taking, it is adjusted to provide maximum comfort without concern over compromised breathing during flight.

    I also take Zanaflex and I found that there's a big difference between taking it with and without food. If taken with food, the effects of it are delayed about 30 minutes longer than without food and it has a greater effect when taken with food. I found in the documentation from the manufacturer, that taking it with food tends to increase the blood plasma level of the Zanaflex by up to 30%. I also use it in both the capsule and tablet form. I find that the tablet form is active a lot quicker as well.

    Oh and one other thing that makes flying a lot easier, is go to the TSA website and read up on going through security with medications. They have very specific guidelines that keep you from having any unexpected hold ups when going through security.

    Hope this helps.

  • Thanks for the advice.
    I took a 2.5 hour flight and didn't take meds b/c I forgot to look it up in advance. Planes are terrible for lumbar.

    I love the "get a note from the doctor" so you can coordinate getting up to walk around. This is so important now with increased security. They don't want you up and waiting in line for the bathroom even so getting up and moving is tough without this.

    I also like telling your doctor so you can get/take along meds on the flight.

    I found I didn't want to board first b/c I didn't want to have to 'sit' for longer than needed. I got on almost last. I also thought sitting near back or front was helpful Back was good b/c I could get up without being notices as much BUT front of plan was better b/c I got off as soon as the plane landed.
  • I'm off to London via Icelandair in a few days. I booked an aisle seat and hopefully this will make things a little easier getting up to walk to the BR, etc. Never thought of taking a muscle relaxer, so will definitely do that. Best wishes to you sotired, hope your flight isn't too hard on you.

  • thanks for the additioal ideas. see my pm thursday and will ask him for a letter.
  • Yoga mat sounds like good idea although you might also talk with the airline to find out what services may be available prior to the flight (they should have a lounge or someplace where you could stretch out in comfort.

    I am the same as you (can't sit) and have had to take disability from my career which I loved. I had spinal cord stimulator implanted last August and it helps me sit longer without as much pain so I don't have to dread flights as much as before.

    Good luck!
  • Yoga mat sounds like good idea although you might also talk with the airline to find out what services may be available prior to the flight (they should have a lounge or someplace where you could stretch out in comfort.

    I am the same as you (can't sit) and have had to take disability from my career which I loved. I had spinal cord stimulator implanted last August and it helps me sit longer without as much pain so I don't have to dread flights as much as before.

    Good luck!
  • Hello.

    I was told a few years ago (maybe things have changed?) that I could get medical permission to fly first class at no additional charge b/c of my back issues.

    The folks at USAir said I'd need to be examined by one of their doctors (I suspect they'd have to review my history, etc.) and that it can take months, so you need to plan ahead.

    The benefit to first class, of course, is the ability to lay down. If I were to take a long flight now I'd most certainly at least check it out and see if this is available (the free upgrade).

    Good luck.
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