Preventing Swollen Ankles After Flying

Travelling overseas brings with it much anticipation and excitement. For most of us Australians, the bliss of foreign adventures is only enjoyable after many uncomfortable hours in a tiny, claustrophobic aircraft. There are many common complaints during long distance travel and one of the primary issues is swollen ankles after flying.

Causes of Ankle Swelling on Airplanes

Swollen ankles after flying can occur due to inactivity and prolonged sitting in a static position. During normal life and movement, the body relies on activity from our calf muscles to pump the blood against gravity back up to our heart and lungs in order to exchange carbon dioxide (waste) with fresh oxygen.

During prolonged sitting on a plane, the blood accumulates in the veins in the lower leg and ankles and can cause swelling in the feet, ankles and knees. As the blood is struggling to travel up against the pull of gravity, a log jam of sorts occurs as we sit for many hours to our destination.

The good news is that swelling of the ankles after flying is a relatively low risk problem that can return to normal quickly. The better news is that with a few strategic movements, swollen ankles after flying can be prevented altogether.

The greatest risk during air travel is deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs after a long period of time where the blood is not freely moving through the deep veins of the lower leg. When blood is static, it can form a clot that could potentially lead to more serious problems if the clot impedes a significant portion of the vein or if it breaks off and gets lodged in another part of the body. It’s therefore essential to appropriately prevent and manage swelling in the ankles, feet and knees during air travel. If the swelling or leg pain does not resolve in the few hours following a long flight, you should seek medical assistance to rule out a DVT.

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