Often, we get all excited over upcoming travels and forget the basic essentials of travelling. Being so immersed and focused on the destination itself, before even embarking on the travel, we tend to neglect one of the most important aspect of any travel; the journey and flight. Keeping one’s-self comfortable over the duration of any journey is important. In fact, a journey well begun is half done. A common condition that occurs as a result of long flights is that of DEEP Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a prevalent condition, which can occur during long haul flights. As the blood is pumped around the body from the heart, it relies on skeletal muscle contraction to pump the blood through the one-way valves of the veins to return blood flow to the heart. During long flights, a general lack of mobility can cause blood to pool in the extremities, which can cause swelling of the feet and legs and in some cases cause a DVT in the leg, where the blood forms a clot and restricts blood flow back to the heart.
The risk of developing a DVT from flying can be minimised by using flight socks and doing regular mobility exercises in your seat. Flight socks can help to promote circulation at rest. They work by providing graduated compression from the foot and ankle up to the calf, to direct the blood flow back to the heart. They are easy to put on, can be worn under clothing and keep your feet warm!
Regular mobility exercises are also a great way to ensure your muscles are contracting and pushing blood flow back to the heart. Simple exercises, such as toe tapping, heel lifts, ankle circles and knee extensions are great to keep your legs moving and can easily be done in your seat. It is also a good idea to get up out of your seat regularly, go for a walk up and down the aisle, march on the spot and do some stretches (this will also help with lower back stiffness!). An aisle seat will enable you to get up whenever you like without disturbing anyone, plus you can stretch your legs out in the aisle when the plane is quiet!
Other tips and tricks for a comfortable flight include:
- Using a neck pillow – this helps keep the neck supported while sleeping.
- Avoid prolonged reading or iPad use on the tray table (this is not an optimal position for your neck!)
- Use a cushion behind your lower back for lumbar support (often flights will give you a cushion and a blanket, especially overnight flights)
- Recline your seat – Seat reclines are there for a reason!
- Stay hydrated! Aeroplane cabins have low levels of humidity, therefore the dry air can dehydrate you. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the flight and limit alcohol intake. This assists in reducing the effects of jetlag.
If you have any upcoming travel, and have concerns regarding current pain or injuries, and how to manage them whilst you are away, get in touch with your physiotherapist who can prescribe exercises or give advice more specific to your needs.
Of course, the team at Como Physiotherapy is always ready to guide you through a safe and comfortable flight. Let your next travel be a comfortable and memorable one!
Blog post by Casey Melville, Physiotherapist