How To Take Care Of Your Legs When Flying

Today’s Question: I just got back from Hawaii and my legs hurt from the long trip. Is there anything I can do to prevent this the next time I travel?  Amy, Winona Lake

A. Aloha, Amy!  Whenever you travel by air, there is always a lot of sitting involved whether you flew all the way to Hawaii or not. First, there is sitting in the car to get to the airport. Then, you sit in the terminal waiting for your flight. Then, you sit in your seat on the cramped airplane. When you sit, your blood is not flowing throughout your body and back to your heart as it normally does. It is actually sitting stagnant in your veins. This is what causes leg swelling, aching and worse case scenario a blood clot. For example, in 2003 NBC reporter David Bloom died from a blood clot in Iraq after sitting in cramped tanker for days. We know that prolonged sitting can cause health problems ranging from the annoying to life threatening. Symptoms of a blood clot to be aware of could include: leg pain, swelling in the leg, chest pain or shortness of breath.

My advice to anyone traveling is to walk as much as possible that day. When you walk, your calf muscles squeeze on the deep veins in your legs which will then circulate the blood up out of your leg. When you are waiting at the airport for your flight, it is also beneficial to walk around the terminal instead of sitting.

Since you have flown recently, Amy, you may have noticed in the seat pocket that airlines are now giving instructions for blood clot prevention while flying. You will find a list of simple exercises you can do right in your seat to encourage blood flow throughout your veins to help prevent blood clots. While at your seat, doing simple leg exercises like flexing your ankles and then pointing your toes and then pushing down like on a gas pedal will help with blood flow and may also help with aching and swelling of your legs. According to the American College of Phlebology, “Flexing your ankles 10 times will pump the blood out of your legs like walking.” This exercise should be performed at least once an hour while flying. If you are on a flight for more than two hours (and the fasten seat belt sign is off), get up and walk the aisles. It is also recommended to wear a medical compression stocking. You can talk to your health care provider about which one would be best for you.

Amy, by being a smart traveler and doing a few simple exercises, you can have healthier legs when traveling and arrive to your destination and back home again symptom free. If you have any questions about your leg health, be sure to talk to your medical professional.

Jennifer Kauffman is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner, practicing in Warsaw and Ft. Wayne. She is a sought after speaker at medical conferences such as the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons. Jennifer is a member of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Coalition of Advance Practice Nurses of Indiana. She received her Nursing and Nurse Practitioner degrees from Goshen College, and Indiana Wesleyan University. Jennifer is a Clinical Instructor nationally to physicians and nurses on sclerotherapy.

Do you have a question for Jennifer, about this article or another cosmetic skin care issue? Please call Vein Institute & Medical Spa at 574-267-1900 to have your questions answered and considered for future columns. Questions can also be submitted online at

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