The last two weeks have been dedicated to the signs, symptoms, prevention and treatment of blood clots. This column is specifically for the health and wellness of the long distance traveler. Just last week the risk of blood clots while traveling in an airplane was brought to my attention by Catherine Adamo. Catherine made this inquiry while preparing for her first trip to Europe where she plans to spend 9 days in Italy this next month. While I am very excited for her, I want her to travel safely!
Have you noticed that being on an airplane for five or more hours causes neck, back and legs soreness and stiffness? It is important to prevent this problem on long trips, especially with air travel. Also, as people age and/or develop other health problems, they are more vulnerable to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I present some valuable tips from research and personal experience on how to prevent neck, back and leg pain and stiffness and prevent DVT.
A DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein. The deep veins pass through the muscles and cannot be seen like the veins just under your skin. While it may occur in your arms, it is much more common in the legs, especially the calf muscle when traveling. When a blood clot forms in a leg vein it usually sticks to the vein wall. Often, pain and swelling lead you to the doctor and treatment is rendered before serious complications develop. However, there are two possible complications. One, a pulmonary embolus, occurs when a part of the clot logged in your deep vein of the calf breaks off and gets lodged in the lung. This is a very serious problem that can be fatal. Two, post-thrombotic syndrome, occurs when you have pain and swelling in the calf after a DVT.
The following risk factors for DVT significantly increase the potential for problems when traveling on long trips by air more than 5 hours. Trains, cars and buses also create a risk, but air travel creates a greater risk for the following reasons: reduced cabin pressure, reduced cabin oxygen levels, dehydration and alcoholic drinks, which may increase dehydration and immobility.
Airplane seats are “C” shaped and force you to round your neck and back forwards. These exercises are designed to stretch and extend your back in the opposite direction. Please perform slowly, hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 10 times each hour.
Sitting: When sitting in an airplane seat, take the neck pillow in the overhead compartment and place it in the small of your lower back. While sitting or standing up, perform postural exercises every 30-45 minutes.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.