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21 Fri

Minimize Your Pain on Planes

This holiday season, when you’re travelling to spend time with your family, remember to take care of yourself.  We all know there’s not a lot of leg room on planes and that can make for uncomfortable sitting, especially if the flight is over a couple hours long.  This prolonged sitting can affect your circulation.  It can cause swelling in the feet and legs, and although rare, prolonged sitting can even cause the formation of blood clots.  If you already have circulatory complications, you may need to consult your doctor prior to flying.

But if you find yourself on a plane for extended hours, here’s some tips and exercises to combat that sitting fatigue and help prevent clots from forming:

  • Keep moving.  When the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign is off, try and get up and take a small walk and stretch your legs.
  • Stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of water.  Travelling by plane can dehydrate you quickly, maintain your body’s water levels by drinking water, save the alcoholic beverages for after you land.
  • Ankle pumps.  While sitting with your feet flat on the floor, lift your toes up as high as you can while keeping your heels on the floor and hold for 5 seconds.  Then lift up your heels up as high as you can while keeping your toes on the floor and hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat up to 20 times.
  • Ankle circles.  While sitting, lift one foot off the ground and rotate the foot around, performing circles in the air, clockwise and counterclockwise.  You can even try writing the alphabet with your toe.  Try 20-30 circles.
  • Marching in place.  While sitting, lift up one knee and then repeat with the other leg as if you were marching.  You can even try using your arms to pull the knee to your chest.  Try 20-30 times each leg.
  • Stretch your back.  If room allows, you can reach up as high as you can to stretch out your back and arms.  Also you can try side bending or rotation in sitting by grabbing the seat back or the seat in front of you to help pull your trunk around.

For other tips or to address other problems with travelling, like how to prevent back pain while sitting, consult the physical therapists at Professional Physical Therapy and Training, conveniently located in the Summit and Madison YMCAs.

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