Recovery of the Legs When They Are Tight and Stiff After a Long Airline Flight

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Have you been on a long flight?

Many travellers have and when they arrived at their destination the chances are they were sore, stiff and their ankles were swollen and feet barely fitting into the shoes-this is a problem because if you are visiting somewhere and you are on a limited time schedule the last thing you need is to be walking stiffly in shoes that do not fit because of swollen feet.

Ill fitting shoes can rub the feet causing blisters which if they are not treated can cause infection and take a long time to heal as the supply of fresh blood to the blister site is reduced.

Why do the legs and ankles swell on long flights?

The basics of swollen ankles

The veins are blood vessels that take used blood back towards the heart-they have one-way valves in them so the blood can’t flow back the way it came.

Swollen ankles

When used depleted blood reaches the ankles and just sits there stagnating ; lymph fluid starts to separate from the used blood into the tissues spaces; as it can’t be pumped up the legs back to the body the ankles swell.

Gravity and the weight of blood in the body

Water is subject to pressure-the deeper it is the more pressure there is at the bottom; for instance on the surface of the water the swimmer feels none, but the deeper he goes the more it affects his body as the pressure increases.

Blood in the body is similar; in someone standing, the pressure at the head is almost non-existent, but at the lowest part of the body the feet, the pressure is higher because of the weight of the blood in the veins-but also because fresh blood is being pumped there under pressure by the heart.

The Calf Muscle Pump

To get used blood back to the body there is a system called the muscle pump made up of the leg muscles-the main motors for the pump being the calf muscles.

The calf muscle pump forces depleted blood used blood against gravity up the legs back to the body where it is re-nourished with oxygen for recycling it is sent back out again to various parts of the body through the arteries. 

The calf muscles provide power for this pump-but they only work if they are used

To keep the circulation in balance in the legs, the same volume of blood should come out of the legs as goes into them-if the calf muscles are not working the pump becomes inefficient and nothing moves.

Problems caused by calf muscle pump inefficiency include:

Poor circulation 

Lymph system inactivity

Venous return reduced

First aid is needed for leg muscles

The faster the legs receive help, the faster they recover but it is important they get it as soon as possible before soreness and stiffness limits what can be done with them.

There are ways to give the legs first aid-Recovery takes different forms

Passive and Active

Passive Recovery for legs

This means letting the legs have their own way and letting them fix themselves up-lying on the back with the legs higher than the body to help fluid drainage back to the body may help relieve them by reversing the effects of gravity.

(Anything interesting on the television-can you understand the language?)

Because it needs time to wait for this to happen this may eat into valuable trip time-might as well go back to the hotel/villa/hostel/ tent and spend the next couple of days not doing any sightseeing (might as well have stayed at home).

Or you can turn the accommodation into a Mini Recovery Center and make the calf muscle pump work again.

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