July 17, 2017

Why Wear Compression Socks for Flying

You are on a cramped coach during a long fight and your ankles are killing you. They look 3 times bigger. As if that is not punishing enough, the plane finally lands after 8 hours of continuous flight only for you to find that your ankles are swollen and it even hurts to drag your baggage to the waiting airport taxi. Getting to visit different civilizations around the world is one of biggest joys to travelers. Unfortunately, as you increase your travel tome, blood clots during the flight become a real threat to your health.

Enhances the Blood Circulation

Stewardess and passengers on commercial airplane.

All is not lost though. With compression socks, this problem is easily handled. Haven’t you noticed that your granny and marathoners always adorn things that look like socks? True, they look uncool (especially your grandmother’s), however modern fashionistas have made some that will not be embarrassing to show off at the airport lobby.

The socks will not only enhance your blood circulation bust decrease the risk of swelling, deep vein thrombosis or clotting when on that long flight.

How the Compression Socks Work

From the word “compression” we can derive how the socks work. The squeeze against your muscles, reducing the diameter of your veins hence circulating the blood in your legs more efficiently. They ensure that the blood does not stagnate at one single point, which is usually the cause of swelling.

Companies such as Rejuva and VIM &VIGR has been manufacturing stylish and designer compression socks for both men and women. It is not uncommon to see a megastar adorning the compression stocks after a long flight.

Sometimes the socks are so tight that wearing them fulltime is just untenable. Tell you what; throw in a pair or two into your carry-on bag and then you can change them while in the plane. The compression socks are not only essential in travelling but also for activities such as jogging, skiing, hiking and many other outdoor activities.

Putting on the Compression Socks

compession sock

It takes a little practice to get used to wearing compression socks during your long flights. The compression stockings’ manufacturers advise to you to grab the toe, fold the rest of the sock inside out, and place your foot at the toe and the roll over the rest of the sock over the ankle and leg.

Pro Tip: If after wearing the sock it starts to feel too tight or becomes painful, then you bought the wrong size. Wearing a smaller size of the compression sock causes more harm than good. The recommended feel of the socks is like your calves are getting a subtle hug and not feeling like you are being strangled.

What Do the Doctors Say?

Doctors reckon that wearing thigh high graduated compression stockings would be preferable for faster feet and ankles blood circulation.

They recommend that apart from wearing the compression socks, you should stretch and exercise your legs constantly while on flight. One such exercise is stretching the calf muscles at least 10 times after every 2 hours.

For people suffering deep vein issues or saphenous, the doctors reckon that thigh high compression socks will be most effective

You are also well advised to drink lots of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks while you are on a long flight to increase the level of your blood’s oxygenation.

Always get your supply of compression socks from a medical store or from a medical professional. Most of the other stores sell socks with a tight band around top and this may limit the flow of blood to other parts of the body. If you have to get the socks from a store, you are well advised to get socks with 12-18 mmHG compression grade

If you have any medical condition that affects your heart or blood pressure, consult your doctor before buying the compression socks.

Take Home Points about Compression Socks

Wearing compression socks on long haul flights will reduce the risk of getting blood clots in your legs by a factor of 12.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is clotting of blood in the arms, torso or legs and is very common among people who frequently travel on planes for long hours. It is a dangerous because the clots may break off and travel through the blood stream to important organs such as the lungs. This may cause life threatening diseases such as pulmonary embolism. To reduce the risk of such conditions, use compression socks on your legs to increase circulation.

DVT risk is higher when one is travelling in the economy class in transoceanic flights. If you are a regular traveler, subscribe for airmiles to enable you to travel first class in some of the flights. If this is not possible, you are well advised to stay hydrated, use compression socks and stretch your legs every now and then.

The compression socks are very effective at reducing the risk of blood clots in your bloodstream, however, you are encouraged to explore all the measures available to preventive measures such as;

  • Constant mobility in the aircraft (unless otherwise advised by the flight attendants).
  • Avoid cramped up positions in the plane. Get an airline that offers comfortable seats.
  • ​Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks and drink lots of water.
  • ​Do not sit at the edge of the seat.
  • Adjust the seat posture when you want to sleep.
  • Walk briefly for at least 15 minutes before the flight take off.

What the Scientific Study Says

In a study conducted by the Journal of Advanced Nursing, researchers found that wearing knee-high compression stocks during long flight greatly reduced DVT amongst British and Italian travelers. The researchers conducted the research on 2500 flyers in a period of 9 years. They came to a conclusion that flyers who did not wear the compression socks were 12.5 times more likely to develop DVT.

So is it foolhardy to wear compression socks during a flight? Not according to available evidence. If you are looking to have a healthy circulation in your body during long flights, you will wear them!

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