Fly Away, Leg Swelling. Fly Away.


At 8:05 am, I took my seat on the plane, anticipating my 20 hour flight to India to get under way. I had taken countless flights half way around the world before, so I certainly knew what I was in for – constant ear popping, not being able to fall asleep, etc. About 7 hours into the flight though, my legs and feet really started to hurt.

This isn’t something I had experienced on any long-distance flight before.  I took my shoes off, only to notice that they were quite puffy. Had I been in first class, I would have instantly, reclined my chair and put my feet up, but due to my economy seat on the plane, this just wasn’t an option.

I tried to walk around a bit – back and forth from the bathroom. After all, there wasn’t anywhere to go, and the bathroom was really only a few steps away. So, for the next 13 hours, I traveled to India with a pretty annoying feeling of discomfort. The phrase “my dogs were barking” really doesn’t do justice to this type of discomfort. It’s not that my legs felt merely tired or sore, they actually hurt quite a bit.

Well, it didn’t take a physician to tell me what the problem was – the sitting position I was in, wasn’t allowing my blood to circulate properly. I mean, this is what I figured – it was fairly common sense. When I finally visited my Dr. – explaining my situation and symptoms, he confirmed my original assumption to be the case.

He said that prolonged sitting positions can cause blood to pool in the veins of the leg. The very position that your legs are in while you’re sitting also increases pressure in the leg veins as well. In turn, this causes swelling in the feet and legs by making fluid leave the blood and migrate to surrounding tissues.

What To Do About The Swelling

The first thing my Dr. recommended was a pair of Mediven 15-20 Travel Socks. He mentioned that these travel socks even out blood flow, so that on my next long-distance flight, swelling wouldn’t be an issue. I was a little reluctant at first – for some reason, I thought they’d be extremely uncomfortable and constricting, but I was wrong. They couldn’t be more relaxing to wear.

Apart from the travel socks, my Dr. also mentioned that I remember to stretch my legs every hour or two. I guess I had the right idea by getting up and walking to the bathroom.

He also said that on my next trip, I should shift my position in my seat often, and that crossing my legs is probably one of the worst ways to make the leg swelling issue worse.

Another thing he mentioned that I wasn’t too pleased with is that I should avoid sedatives and alcohol on any long flight. Admittedly, a drink can make a boring flight a bit more entertaining, but it can also make you too sleepy to regularly stretch your legs.