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Understanding Economy Class Syndrome

Understanding Economy Class Syndrome

Get fit, before you fly

I am not telling you to go get all Rocky like, I am talking about… you guessed it, getting fit for compression stockings. Those who travel for periods longer than 3 hours should take the necessary precautions to lesson their chances of a DVT. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Economy Class Syndrome or ECS. 

The name Economy Class syndrome is quite misleading. It is definitely not a problem only for those sitting in the back of a plane, although cramped quarters does not help and it's not just an issue tied to air travel. Sorry my first-class friends you are no safer than those behind you, in fact you may be at more risk. Like I said lack of space can play a part but there is more to it than what the name leads you to believe.

We should probably start with what a DVT actually is, just in case this is completely new to you. By definition a DVT is a blood clot (thrombus) that forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, typically in the legs.

There are a few factors that put you at a higher risk before you even go jetsetting across the globe. One is age, statistically we know those over the age of 40 are twice as likely to develop a DVT, over 60 your risk is even greater. People with inherited blood clotting conditions, pregnant or postpartum women, overweight or obese, or those with large varicose veins in their legs. Everyone should follow the simple tip I am about to provide, especially if you fall in any of the abover categories just mentioned.

Scared to fly, drive, scuba dive? Don’t be. There are lots of preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk. Age you cannot control, blood clotting disorders you may or maynot. Weight? Sure but this won't help you at this point but in the future absolutely. So let’s take a look at what we can control and do to reverse the direction of all this.

  1. Keep moving. Sitting in a cramped position, while not moving for long periods of time increases your chance of developing a deep vein thrombosis. Make an effort to get up and walk the aisle every hour. If you miss an hour try wiggling your toes, moving your ankles and knees, get your blood flowing. If driving make an effort to stop frequently and walk. A helpful tip when flying, ask for the aisle seat. Studies show that passengers with window seats are more likely to get a DVT than someone sitting next to the aisle. If you get the window seat, just think of it as your opportunity to educate and get them moving because they have to let you out. 
  2. Proper sitting position and keep it loose. Don’t cross your legs or sit on the edge of your seat. Not sure about you but that isn’t happening in the back of the plane, that’s a first class issue. You’ve been warned first-classers, you’ve been warned. Wear loose clothing, avoid improper fitting stockings and socks with tight bands as they will constrict blood flow.
  3. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Again be careful up in first class, I hear you get free drinks which dehydrates your body. Instead make them bring you Perierre or limit it to one drink then continue drinking water. They say coffee is a no go, but I disagree (I love coffee). How can coffee be bad? I could do some serious speed walking after 2 or 3 cups. Coffee causes dehydration as well so no too much coffee. :(
  4. Wear travel compression socks. Wearing a properly fitted gradient compression stocking or sock helps prevent blood from pooling in the veins and reduces your risk of developing a blood clot. Pay special attention to this if you have compression socks already that you plan on using. Jeneen and I have been doing this over 12 years and I can not tell you how many times someone has walked through our doors with compression stockings on that were doing more harm than good. Rolled or slid down their leg, turnacuting there legs; thousands of times, no lie. A proper fitting gradient compression stocking will do wonders for you, on the other side, a poor fitting compression garment can wreak havoc on your legs. So be careful running out to Wal-Mart and grabbing any ol’ size. Just because you shirt says small or x-large does not mean your compression socks follow suit.

I hope you found something useful from this post, outside of my being goofy. You live once why not laugh or call someone an idiot in the comforts of your home behind a computer screen.

I would like to finish up by saying if you ever experience any swelling, discomfort, pain or tenderness, red or discolored skin in your legs following a long flight or traveling in a car you should seek medical attention immediately. It also should be noted that many experience no symptoms at all and that is not funny.

Here is a link to some recommended travel socks that Jeneen and I personally like. You do not need to go by what we suggest, any 15-20 mmHg gradient compression stocking or sock will do the tricks. If you already wear compression that is higher than 15-20 mmHg you should stick with your previously prescribed compression.

Here are some of our favorites for men and women. Click >>> TRAVEL SOCKS

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