Italy-Osteoarthritis

I've been working on this trip for months, now my friend informs me she has knee problems, bone on bone arthritis...The trip will be public transportation, Sorrento, Rome, Assisi,Florence and Venice. I don't think she should come ...the trip isn't till May, without surgery she feels she will be fine....I don't see it. After excitement now bad feeling! Have any of you traveled in this condition?

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

No, but I can tell you that there are many stairs in Italy and it's impossible to avoid them, especially in Venice (stairs up and down the many bridges over the many canals are just one example). Also much of the historic centers of towns are paved with cobblestones which make walking difficult. Even where the paving is smooth, much of the walking is uphill or downhill in all your destinations. And many of the sights require climbing up and down many stairs.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Would a regular or motorized wheelchair be an option?

Posted by mimi
Vancouver, BC, Canada
175 posts

Yes, I travel with a severely damaged knee - bone on bone and severed ACL. I was in Italy in May/June and managed many hill towns without too much discomfort to myself or my DH. My surgeon actually told me to take the trip pre-op b/c it's difficult to know how long rehab will take and an Italian trip with a walker would not be fun! Well, AFAIAC... If we were going to be doing a lot of walking/stairs I'd take two extended relief acetaminophen every 8 hours and make sure I rested the knee for 20 minutes or so every hour - then I'd carry on. The rest was used for espresso and gelato so DH could enjoy the enforced dawdling! Your friend will get lots of time to rest her knees on the bus - as long as it isn't one of the tours where there's no room to elevate or stretch out the limb. Pavement and stairs are the enemy and thick-soled walking shoes essential. Rome, Sorrento, and Florence are relatively hill less although hard surfaced - the bridges in Venice are a little tough to manoever and Assisi is a combo. The stairs getting on and off the bus are pain inducing but manageable. If I weren't allergic to ASA I'd take Aleve - it really 'alleviates' pain. Also, a folding cane might come in handy. In any case, she should know how much discomfort she can manage and hopefully, how much YOU are willing to tolerate! BTW, I'm scheduled for a total replacement in March so no Italy this year.
Sigh.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1631 posts

Would the steep entrance steps on trains cause her problems? That is in addition to having to hoist her luggage up on to the train.

Posted by Jo
Hendersonville, NC
77 posts

Thanks everyone this is something to think about. I do have mixed feeling.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Jo, Your friend's Physician will be the best "judge" on whether she'll be able to manage a trip like that. I'm assuming she's asked for an opinion? She may be able to manage without too much trouble by "pacing" herself, packing good footwear and using analgesics that contain an anti-inflammatory component (NSAIDs). I'm not sure whether Cortisone shots would also be a good option? She may want to try a "test run" before you make any arrangements, simulating the amount of walking she might do in Europe, including some stairs and hoisting luggage. That should provide at least an indication of how well she'll be able to manage. When travelling between locations, boarding and disembarking trains will be the only difficult part. She'll be sitting for the rest of the time. The main issue will be day touring. If she's having problems, she could rest in the Hotel part of the time, while you go out touring. Good luck!

Posted by mimi
Vancouver, BC, Canada
175 posts

...I did have a cortisone shot a month b4 we went - and it really did help.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

My wife travels with marginal knees and a bad back, and she runs on morphine sulfate and other pills for breakthrough pain. We're getting our travel while she's young enough to do it. We are now staying in agritursimos and doing day trips by rental car throughout Tuscany or other regions. There's no rushing. If we want to sleep in and rest, we will. If you were going on an organized tour by bus, I'd say it'd be okay. But independent travel by trains and buses is very physically demanding, not including all the walking on tough cobblestone streets. In Venice, there are no streets, but plenty of bridges to negotiate. Anyone traveling with my group must be able to walk a few miles a day, and handle their own luggage. We travel with one 21" rolling bag and we never check a bag. I would say don't consider it.

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1199 posts

As someone else pointed out, if you were to take an organized bus tour, it would be easier than if you're getting on/off trains and buses on your own. But, it sounds like you're not taking an organized tour. Within the train stations themselves, you often have to go up/down stairs to get to the platforms & then lift the luggage on and off the train, etc. It gets tiring very fast, especially if one has a physical limitation. Italy is not as ADA-friendly as the U.S. is, simply because their buildings are older and not easily retrofitted for elevators, ramps, etc. I found this out when traveling in Italy in 2009 with a bad big toe. It really limited my mobility & I quickly learned that most places don't have elevators and there was just no getting away from stairs, stairs & more stairs! This is true of hotels too so if your friend does decide to go, I would at least look for hotels that have an elevator. Keep in mind that in Italy the "first" floor is what we would consider to be the "second" floor. In your friend's condition, it's not just the stairs that might be a problem...it might be the large amount of walking in general that's required in Italy. When I was there in '09, we relied much more heavily on taxi's than we usually would in order to minimize the walking. This helped some but still there's no getting away from lots of walking! And, of course in Venice, taxis are not a possibility. Only your friend can truly assess whether she's capable of making the trip...but she needs to be very realistic about the physical requirements and the extent of her limitations. I hope you're both able to make the trip.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2508 posts

Jo, many train stations in larger cities now have elevators to the platforms. Other stations, in smaller cities, have ramps (although there's a distance involved in walking them). Some stations have neither, but most have a Customer Care office or a desk for requesting help for people with disabilities. The elevator and/or ramp will get your friend to the train, and the train station personnel can probably provide help in getting on the train (and let the conductor know you will need help getting off). The idea of a folding cane (especially one that has a seat) is a good one - or, the pair of walking sticks that many people use for hilly terrain or hiking (about $100). Some major museums also have wheelchairs that can be rented. Although I don't have a chronic condition, I did take a nasty fall on the third day of a 3-month trip last year, and it slowed me down for several weeks. Depending on the type of tour you might be considering, the pace may be too much for your friend - as independent travelers, you can set your own pace. In the end, the too of you will have to make the decision, but I suggest you get her doctor's opinion, and also check some websites for traveling with disabilities.

Posted by Jo
Hendersonville, NC
77 posts

Again thanks everyone for helping me think this out...I hate the hurt feelings after 26 years but I still feel this trip isn't for her

Posted by Susan
Atlanta, Ga, USA
1463 posts

Hope your friend can make the trip. I disagree that many rail stations have elevators. We have done many train trips in Europe and the trains and stations easiest to navigate are in Switzerland. The trains we used there on several trips were the no steps type and luggage could be wheeled on wo lifting.The stations had ramps available-very easy for wheeling luggage. Italy was another story and Venice is demanding on the knees. A few years ago we arrived in Venice and vaporettos were on strike and a water taxi was not available-the walk from Roma Station to our hotel involved a long walk and many bridges pulling luggage.

Posted by Jo
Hendersonville, NC
77 posts

Decision is made, she's not coming and not speaking to me! I could beat myself up over this forever knowing I hurt her feeling and what if she would have been fine by May......but I have to do what I truly think is right for me too.
You guys are great, thank you for helping me make a very difficult decision I'm sure my husband thanks you too- he won't have he hear about it any more. ENOUGH-its been a month

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Jo: You know you've made the decision for the right reason. Everyone has their limitations, and past that they can be an imposition on others. My wife and I are young retirees, and we have been traveling heavily for many years, despite her back and knee pains. We continue to take cruises from time to time because they're relatively cheap and my wife can do things on her schedule. Our European trips are carefully planned with her physical limitations in mind. After many trips driving as far as we can in 2 weeks, we're now limiting our 2 week trips to 3 locationsand driving on day trips. If we were not experienced, independent travelers, we would be on organized tours. When airfare prices are high (like now), we look to North American destinations that have bargain airfares. But bargain airfares are getting harder to find with airline consolidations. Next trip we're flying into New England on Southwest and taking in Nova Scotia. There are 8 major trips into Canada that are worthy of taking. There are few U.S. destinations we have not seen numerous times, however. Keeping watch on the internet for travel bargains is a great free hobby. And travel keeps us looking forward to our next trip.
When we are not self sufficient, we'll be able to travel in our minds because of all the places we've been to.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8757 posts

That's a shame... For the sake of an easier couple of week vacation that she now won't be permitted to take, the loss of a long friendship. That's too bad. I'm sorry for you, and I'm sorry for her.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2508 posts

Jo, sorry to hear that your friendship is damaged. Perhaps time will help heal it. Last year I had to back out of a couple of weeks traveling with a friend because our travel styles are so different, and we haven't repaired the damage yet, but I'm optimistic.

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

I guess I've been lucky, having a husband and friends who would help me with my luggage and the on and off the trains and busses. I don't think I've held them back at all, willingly sitting in a cafe while they did more rigorous climbing, which I didn't mind at all! Sorry you couldn't work this out somehow.

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1199 posts

Jo, sorry to hear that your friend is not talking to you. I think deep down she probably had doubts as to whether she could handle the walking/stairs but it's easier to make you the bad guy rather than to admit that this probably wasn't the trip for her given her osteoarthritis. She will hopefully come around eventually & realize that you were right to be concerned.

Posted by Gerald
Wyckoff, USA
1 posts

There is a good chance that you could bring this under control with a multi-nutrient joint supplement that worked wonders for me. It takes about 2 - 3 weeks to relieve the pain & stiffness, but the results can be amazing. It contains fish oil, krill oil, rosehips, collagen II and pine bark extract. It's called OmniFlex.

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

Where can you buy Omniflex? I'd love to have some!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

@Donna, Have a look at THIS website. It should provide the information you need to buy OmniFlex. Cheers!

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1199 posts

Donna, I'd take the Omniflex suggestion with a grain of salt. The person that suggested it is new to this forum & it was his first posting. It might be a good product but I would research it thoroughly first!