Advanced pro tips for picking the best compression socks for travelling

Do you plan on getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life? There is nothing better than visiting friends, or a foreign land to pause for a moment. However there are a lot of dangers involved with the long flights or car rides it might take to get to our destination. This article is about what you need to look out for when choosing the best compression socks for travelling.

The dangers

I personally really enjoy flying. I like the experience of going to the airport, enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a book while waiting for the gate to be announced. Then I take my seat on the plane, and I have multiple hours to work undisturbed, or catch up on sleeping.

Unfortunately from time to time I experience severe leg pains after getting off. My muscles are sore, and my ankles are slightly swollen.

The situation is the same if I take long bus rides. I remember taking a twelve hour bus ride from London to Edinburgh once. By the time I got to the scenic Scottish city, my legs were killing me. Spending all that time sitting in a cramped little chair does not go easy on your limbs.

If someone spends long hours in a  sitting position – for example during car rides or flights – the veins in the legs can become tired. There are two main causes behind this:

  • The veins have to work very hard at pumping the blood against the force of gravity.
  • The leg muscles fail to help the blood circulation with regular contractions.

    Leg pains, muscle cramps and swollen ankles are only inconveniences, but there are real, life threatening dangers involved with long flights, like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

The MayoClinic website defines DVT as:

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. 

Most of the time the blood cloth gets stuck in one of the deeper veins inside the legs, which cuts off the blood flow to the affected muscles. The patients usually feel tiredness and soreness in the muscles. The legs can get swollen, as the veins are unable to properly transfer the fluids from the limbs. These are not life-threatening problems, but in some cases the blood cloth does not get stuck in the leg veins, and travels through the circulatory system to the brain or the lungs. If it gets stuck in one of these vital organs, the consequences can be fatal.

The Wikipedia page about the condition writes:

Pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening complication, is caused by the detachment (embolization) of a clot that travels to the lungs. 

The chances of suffering from DVT increases with age. Statistics show that one in a thousand adults suffers from DVT every year. 

What are the best ways of preventing this condition?

Wearing compression socks or stocking.

These garments are clinically tested to reduce the risks of muscle soreness, swelling and thrombosis. The garment helps in two ways: it helps blood circulation while preventing blood cloth formation. The garment puts pressure on the veins, which makes the diameter of the veins smaller, thus preventing the blood from pooling up.

Another positive effect of the compression socks is the structure they give to the leg muscles. The contraction of the muscles during movement has an important part to play in keeping the blood circulating. The muscles are tighter and hug the veins, thus the movement can have more effect on blood circulation

Always make sure that you wear graduated compression socks on flights. These items put the most amount of pressure on the ankles, and then gradually decrease the pressure the higher up the socks are on the legs.
This promotes optimal blood flow.

Depending on your age and your health, you might need multiple compression garments. Older people, or ones with severe cases of varicose veins might need a compression sock that goes from the ankles to just below the knees, and another model that puts pressure on the thighs. These two models should never overlap at any point on the legs.
Choose a sock that has an elastic bland just below the knees. This construction is comfortable, and promotes optimal fit. The socks should not be too tight, then you would feel very uncomfortable during a long travel.

The material of the socks should be moisture-wicking and hygienic. Product with a few thin lines of silver in them prevent bacterial infections and fungi growth. This is crucial, since wearing these socks for hours will make you sweat for sure. The most comfortable socks are the ones that are made of nylon mixed with spandex and some natural material, for example cotton or silk. These products are tight, thick and elastic at the same time. The natural materials give the skin a chance to breathe and help fight odors.

Apart from wearing compression socks, what other methods are there for lowering the chances of deep vein thrombosis?

Living a Healthy lifestyle

Being overweight and smoking significantly enhance the chances of suffering from DVT. Since we don’t exactly count the calories during a vacation, and we want to look our best in swimsuits, it can not hurt to loose some weight before travelling.

 Giving up smoking has huge benefits when it comes to general health concerns and life expectancy. Not to mention, that it can be a real torture to take a long distance flight and abstain from lighting a fag if you are a heavy smoker.

Take a walk every every hour or two

Moving around a little bit can help rejuvenate your legs with energy. The muscles need to work again, the blood flow speeds up a little bit, and you get an increased sense of vitality.

If you sit next to the window on a plane, and you have no chance of standing up and walking a bit among the isles, just try massaging your legs. You can also attempt to roll your ankles around a bit, or just stand up as much as possible in your seat. Any movement is going to be better than no movement at all.

If you are travelling by car,  stop at least every two hours to move your legs. You are already better off than if you were sitting on a plane because working the pedals requires a little bit of movement, but it is just as important to walk around, get a bit of light cardio and move those thigh and butt muscles.

Consult your general practitioner before travelling

There are some medical treatments that increase the chances of DVT. Such treatments include hormone replacement therapy, or various heart medications. If you are taking any of these, consulting your GP is a wise idea.
Pregnancy can also significantly impact your chances of suffering from DVT.
Do you have any other tips when it comes to choosing the best compression socks for long distance travel, or other methods for reducing the risks of DVT? Leave a comment below!


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