Today, I’m going to show you something…
Exactly how to prevent leg and foot swelling during airplane flights. In fact, this is the same process used by thousands of flight attendants and pilots.
This is a non-technical post. The technicalities have been filtered down for clarity’s sake.
Let’s get down to brass tacks…
An employee needs to adapt to a routine. In the morning they will wake up to the alarm, head off to the gym, shower, shave, dress and grab a coffee or tea if that’s what you fancy.
With that said, morning rituals are fairly universal.
But, what is it about preparing for a flight and preventing something like leg swelling that seems so hazy?
Unraveling the skills needed for a flight isn’t as hard as you think. We can piece this together — just like you can get in the routine for a successful workday.
Flying is actually safer than driving and the chances of anything happening during a flight are next to zero.
Many people still fear flying and that’s understood.
A common thing that people run into is health symptoms that may flare due to altitude. And this can get pretty serious if you have a medical condition. This article is geared towards people that are relatively healthy. If you have serious health issues please consult your physician.
I have traveled internationally many times. I would travel for training, vacations and to see family. I would travel over the rough and deep Atlantic on 12 hours flights. It was brutal.
I started to get used to the toll it took on my body.
I would see people walking up and down aisles. I thought to myself, “there older so they need to get up.” But, there was more to it than that.
They may have had problems with circulation but, I noticed that they took the extra effort to take care of themselves.
By getting up and having a chat, they stayed grounded and it made the flightless traumatic.
Why the Legs Swell During Flights
Swollen legs may be something to sneeze at or in some cases it may be life-threatening. But, how does it develop?
Well, this is important to explore. In a normal leg, the hydrostatic (fluid) pressure of the blood in the veins is balanced by the calf muscle.
Look at the calf muscle as being like the heart muscle. It’s a pump like the heart. Like the heart, it depends on valves. In the leg, the venous valves should be working properly and the calf muscle should contract.
It promotes blood flow.
Swelling can be caused by damage to the valves, prolonged dependency (think of a painful leg or a long flight where your leg stays in one place) or a muscle that doesn’t contract (a broken ankle for example).
At night we rest…
As we rest, we raise the leg and this resolves any swelling. When we disrupt the normal pattern of flow we experience leg swelling. A long flight is one culprit.
When there is high pressure in the venous end of a capillary fluid moves into the tissue. So that capillary opens up and a fluid rich in protein moves into the tissue.
In one study, published in the Journal of Ergonomics Society of South Africa a foot pump device was used to examine the effect on lower leg swelling in inactive office workers.
They found that the use of a foot pump device prevented an increase in lower leg swelling over a working day in these inactive office-workers.
Flight Durations and When to Take Pre-Cautions
Whether or not travel predisposes people to venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (PE) is still up for debate. But, the strongest argument in favor of this comes from people who go to the doctor with PE straight after landing.
The risk of early embolism increases exponentially with travel time beyond 6 hours. There is strong evidence that elastic compression stockings may prevent deep vein thrombosis.
Before we talk about greater solutions for leg swelling, let’s explore what to do before, during and after a flight.
What to do before your flight
Take a minute. Think about your past flights and how you’ve prepared for them. Focus on key areas and what went right? What went wrong? Could you have planned better? I know. These sound pretty basic but it will fit nicely into a greater plan.
Sure, you could have. One of the best things to do here is to focus on the organization of your flight. Plan your layovers, shuttles or taxis, hotels and return flights.
Have a look at your itinerary for meals, flight duration confirmation of the times, etc. (and these may change at the last minute). Download the airline’s app for in-flight entertainment. Time will fly by.
This technique helped me relax and even enjoy my flights:
Exercise before flights or the night before if your flights too early.
Bring snacks and water to stay hydrated.
What to do during your flight
We’re now in flight at about 30,000 feet. You’re calm. But, things can happen like body swelling. You’re confined to a small area and this restricts movement. A happy cardiovascular system doesn’t like that.
These techniques helped me with my long-distance flight to and from Europe:
- Loosen your clothing and remove your jacket. Tight clothing around the groin area and lower leg can slow blood flow to the heart. Remember ‘loose as a goose’.
- Unfasten your seat belt. Sit up straight with your feet flat about 12 inches apart. Lean over your knees keeping your back straight and let your arms hang. This relieves tension in your lower back.
- Walk. Get up and walk. We want to fight off prolonged immobility.
- Ankle circles. Lift both feet off the ground about 4–6 inches. Make circles with your right foot 10 times and then do your left. Try and do this 10 times every hour of flight.
Lift your feet 3 inches and make a scissor motion with your legs bent. Keeps the blood flowing. Sustain this for about 2 minutes. Is the sweat trickling? It may.
High-tech in low tech places: Compression socks act to promote and restore blood flow to the leg.
They give you that firm squeeze that your calf muscle so badly needs help with.
Compression socks come in a variety of pressures like 10–12 mmHg and 18–20 mmHg. Above, I have listed a few things you can do to help. But, a compression stocking will begive you that extra circulatory support.
Not everyone can wear compression stockings. So, you have to give them a try. How do they work?
The stocking’s squeeze is greatest at the ankle.
The pressure gradient allows blood to flow up towards the heart. Without the compression, the blood will flow down to the foot or laterally into the superficial veins.
Here’s a diagram to visualize this:
Is blood flow restored?
You’ll notice a faster recovery, a decrease in swelling and less fatigue after your flight. Our socks are an advanced textile poly-fiber. It has all sorts of benefits stacked on top of compression.
You could be one of the first to have them as we currently have a limited run of inventory. Contact us by subscribing below. And we’ll be sending out more tips and strategies for the other parts of your lifelike…
Recovery after a long day on your feet…
Our socks haven’t been an area that people pay much attention to. And new approaches to sock manufacturing and new materials open up all sorts of opportunities.
What to do after the flight
When in Rome do as the Romans do. Airline flight attendants have to recover quickly after shifts. How do they do this? Some think staying in a hotel away from the significant other may help.
On a serious note, flight attendants spend their off-job time by spending time engaging in physical activity. Sports and other ‘recovery’ activities help them with improving their sense of well-being.
I have seen this across many occupations. People who have a more balanced life seem to be more successful. Socially, health-wise, financially, etc.
Like relationships, you need to develop the ability to adapt and balance out things. Here’s a concrete example of what I would say is a balanced schedule.
Wake up at 5, shower, swim, work, eat, tennis, dinner and family time sleep at 10 pm. This is just an example. Improvise to find the ideal schedule for yourself but, think about a schedule and the right tools that you need in recovery to maintain your energy levels.
Thanks for reading. It would mean the world if you subscribe. I have spent years working in the area of health and technology, staying active and practicing what has worked for me.
The proper use of health and technology can improve your life. At CareRemote we believe that the fusion of health and tech is more than a scheduling application.
It requires intimate knowledge of the human body. We need the expertise of our experts that have focused on things like textiles and materials and the science behind all of this.
If at any time you need help with choosing support for your legs and feet, do not hesitate to reach out.
Which tip are you going to try first?