Whether we’re traveling by car, plane or train, we know that there are many health risks associated with sitting too long, the position of your legs (ever heard of economy class syndrome?), dehydration, and when flying, low pressure and low humidity. There are a few facts and tips you should be aware of to ensure you can enjoy your adventures in a healthy and authentic way.
Besides the torture of the security line, travel can take a toll on the body if not done with care. For example, leg discomfort is a frequent complaint of travel. Studies show that sitting in a car for long hours–even just 90 minutes or more – can cause blood flow beneath the knees to decrease by 50 percent, which increases the chance of blood clots and reduces the amount of freshly oxygenated blood to the legs. Long periods of sitting also leads to poor blood circulation that creates pain, swelling, and/or discomfort.
When simply standing up for a quick lap around the train car is not an option, the use of compression legwear is one way to prevent some of the less than favorable effects travel can have on the body. By design, compression legwear improves circulation, lowers swelling and discomfort, and prevents the onset of conditions such as varicose veins, spider veins, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Nisha Bunke, MD, a venous disease specialist, says that compression therapy, in addition to improving overall circulatory health, “improves microcirculation, lymph drainage, arterial flow, venous pump, and decreases edema,” all of which, if untreated, are likely to become even more bothersome when combined with travel and the summer heat.
It’s important to understand the risks of travel and be aware of solutions readily available. The facts: studies confirm sitting for long periods of time interrupts natural blood circulation which puts travelers at a higher risk for blood clot problems that could eventually result in a more serious condition: DVT.
However, that doesn’t mean travel is out of the question. A different study conducted in 1999 showed that lightweight gradient compression was effective in improving symptoms of discomfort for flight attendants, and more recently, a 2016 study considered whether wearing compression socks on a flight could reduce the risk of circulatory problems.
The results were promising, ultimately finding those who wore compression legwear on a flight lasting at least five hours had both less risk for symptomless DVT, and less swelling in their legs than those on a flight of a similar duration without the compression legwear.
The risk of developing clots is not limited to air travel – sitting in a car for long hours without compression legwear can have a similar effect. Yet, compression legwear can provide relief from these symptoms and improve travel comfort, which is why professionals recommend their use when using any transport – both on the ground and in the air – for trips that last four or more hours.
Compression also proves useful once you arrive at your destination. Typically, a more exciting and active time filled with sightseeing and long hours on the feet, compression use during post-travel time is just as important. Staying active is a great way to promote blood flow for anyone with past, present, or a family history of vein complications, but the truth of the matter is that this post-travel period doesn’t put one at any less at risk for previously mentioned circulation issues.
Don’t believe us? Trust science! The application of compression to exercise, according to a 2007 study, showed a significant difference in the frequency and location of soreness in that after 24 hours – those who had compression legwear (as compared to a control group that did not) showed reduced delayed onset of muscle soreness after exercise for recreationally active men.
Wearing compression legwear also during physical activity is highly recommended. Being on your feet puts 20 percent more strain on the circulatory system, the legs, and the feet; this is especially exaggerated when traveling and constantly on the move. Sliding on a pair of compression socks relieves these seemingly minor symptoms in an easy to manage way.
A 2009 study found similar results: graduated compression stockings accelerated muscle recovery capacity compared to the control group who exercised without compression.
For those unfamiliar to compression, hearing the words “compression legwear,” may bring visions of the beige nylon stockings passed out in hospitals to mind. But the compression industry has changed dramatically in recent years and there is a range of options to fit every style.
Soft Surroundings provides compression legwear both cotton and nylon, each of which come with their own set of specific benefits:
- Cotton compression socks provide breathability, flexibility and comfort and a great year-round option, no matter the season.
- The traditional nylon stockings are good for more than the just the usual hospital and airplane settings. The breathability of the fabric makes nylon great for both high and low impact exercise and are a favorite during warmer months.
Though compression socks hold a reputation for medical use, their benefits spread far beyond, proving compression is versatile enough for travel, work, and everyday use. With this in mind, the next time you’re due to go somewhere far, don’t forget to compress – your legs with thank you later. Safe travels!