So you are traveling with an arm cast…huh? Was it an unexpected wrist sprain while rollerblading, a broken elbow from a surprising slip on the ice; or maybe you tripped on the dog and now have a plate and screws in your forearm?
A trip to the doctor….. an x-ray and…..
an annoying arm cast.
Next time you are at the airport or a national monument, look around, you’d be amazed at how many wrist braces, knee supports, copper gloves, etc people are wearing. People are traveling more than ever regardless of their abilities or inabilities. Whether your trip was planned for vacation or business; you all have one thing in common.
Your injury was NOT on the itinerary.
More often than not, your trip was planned months in advance and you REFUSE to let your arm injury get in the way of your DREAM vacation. Or perhaps, you have an important business trip that cannot be rescheduled and an arm cast will just have to go with your suit.
I’ve happily helped the wounded traveler continue on to their dream get away, work trip, or family vacation quickly after an arm or hand injury.
I’ve seen people travel with everything from minor wrist injuries to severe amputations. Lucky for you, it’s time to share the proven tips I’ve learned from experienced, injured travelers to help you feel more comfortable and pain free while traveling with an arm cast.
Know your dream vacay does not have to end as a result. Sometimes a trip can be just what the doctor ordered.
Get clearance from your doctor.
Get clearance from your doctor. Most physicians will want you to wait at least 24 to 48 hours after your injury or surgery. This is largely due to the swelling that can occur in your fingers or hand.
For example, if you are traveling with an arm cast or splint on, there is a high chance for your fingers and hand to swell. This is a normal body response after an injury.
However, the last thing you need is to be on a plane or in a different state and have to be rushed to an emergency room because the cast is affecting your circulation.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to have your doctor provide a signed medical certificate stating you are fit to fly.
Additional reasons to get the go ahead from your doctor, may be due to medication and medication refills. You may be prescribed pain medications which should not be taken if you are driving. They also come with adverse effects (like constipation) that may not leave you feeling very well while traveling in the car or plane.
Lastly, the doctor may want you to get started with occupational or physical therapy BEFORE you leave to get you started on movement. You’ll want to start a therapy program, per doctor’s orders, to get the best outcome. And that brings me to my next tip.
Take your therapist with you.
Well, not literally, although I will joyfully come along! What I mean is, make sure you sign up to see your physical or occupational therapist through an online teletherapy platform. Now a days you can see a therapist through any mobile device; so it’s like a therapist in your pocket!
Typically, whether you have surgery or not; one of the most important elements in your recovery is to attend therapy.
The last thing you need is a surgery to release tight joints that never got the right amount of motion in the first place.
The virtual hand therapist can help your mobility because they know what exercises are safe for your injury. provide tips to help with swelling and pain, address any concerns that arise while you are away, and so much more.
This can be one less thing to worry about and reduce any anxiety you may have about your recovery process.
There is comfort in knowing, you don’t have to find a reputable therapy clinic in a different state or country.
Want to take a therapist with you?
Call ahead to the hotels you will be staying in to find out about services they have, if any, that may assist you.
For example, make sure they have a working ice machine to reduce swelling, request extra pillows for a better night’s sleep, or ask if your room will have a microwave for moist heat application to help with stiff fingers.
Call ahead to the airline to see what type of assistance you can get and if you can schedule it ahead of time. Plan the items you are packing and give yourself more time. Use items such as a back pack to avoid having to carry bags. Keep in mind, if you have a shoulder injury, this may not work for you.
If you are leaving for a long trip, have items shipped to the location to avoid having to pack large boxes or suitcases. If you are flying, check your bags.
Do you really want to haul a suitcase around with your one good arm just to save a few bucks? This tip is especially helpful if you have a layover.
Don’t have a lot of time to think about packing? Then only pack the essentials into ONE back pack or roll away luggage.
Ask for help.
You would think this would be easy but many people do not want to feel burdensome or draw attention to themselves. Well, I’m hear to tell ya that traveling with an arm cast, or any cast for that matter does draw some attention.
Please, please, PLEASE do NOT attempt to lift a suitcase into a car, or worse into the overhead bin on a flight with your injured arm. I am only saying this because it happens and most people regret it.
Ask for assistance from a flight attendant, ask a fellow passenger on the plane, or pay the neighbor boy a few bucks to pile your suitcases in your car.
Most people will want to help.
Keep tip money handy just in case.
Address swelling immediately.
Don’t wait for your swelling to just go away. Swelling in our hands and fingers can severely limit our mobility, cause horrible pain, and potentially cause permanent joint contractures.
In addition, the longer the swelling lingers the harder it is to get rid of!
To address your swelling while traveling, wear an edema glove or a compression garment, elevate, and exercise.
As stated before, your fingers and hand will swell especially if you are in a cast or splint. Most orthopedic doctors will put you in an over the counter brace or send you to a hand therapist to fabricate a removable cast or splint.
Luckily, a compression sleeve or glove can be worn underneath your removable splint. This can greatly help with the swelling associated with pressure changes such as with flying or stationary movement from driving for long lengths of time.
Pack your favorite pillow so you can elevate your hand to help decrease swelling.
MOVE and move often.
Many injuries require you to continue to move or at least continue to move the surrounding body parts.
For example, you broke your wrist but your fingers, elbow, and shoulder are free to move. If the REST of your body is not broken then MOVE.
You will not only feel better that you are getting out of that stuffy hotel room but you will be physically increasing your circulation, reducing your swelling, increasing your function; but also mentally improving your state of mind.
All of which, reduces your pain.
Enjoy your trip.
Do not let traveling with an arm cast get in your way of a good time. If you start your trip with a panicked mindset, you will not enjoy your time.
You cannot change your situation….
however, you can control how you feel and react to it. Let go of the worry and stress before it consumes you.
If you are having a hard time, call your doctor or ask your teletherapist. They can provide you with advice on how to cope with your injury and provide you with stress reducing techniques such as breathing, meditation, or imagery.
Lastly, remember you may not be able to participate in some of the adventures you planned however….
Relish in the extra attention, catch up on some reading, and put some color on that cast to make it pop!
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