Long Flights & Leg Pain

Make your flight more enjoyable by taking preventive measures to avoid leg pain.
Make your flight more enjoyable by taking preventive measures to avoid leg pain. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

On long flights leg pain can be intermittent or constant, develop gradually or suddenly and affect a particular area or the entire leg. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of the reasons leg pain can occur is from prolonged abnormal posture. It’s not uncommon for individuals who are cramped in a plane to experience leg pain. Long periods of travel can take an uncomfortable toll on the body. Fortunately, there are preventive measures that individuals can take to relieve leg pain and keep their bodies a little more comfortable while they fly.

It's Called Thromboembolism

According to the National Institutes of Health, travel more than doubles the risks of blood clots. Most often these blood clots are in the legs. This can cause a condition called venous thromboembolism, which can be fatal. One reason that people suffer from venous thromboembolism is hours of being cramped up and sitting in the same position. This condition is normally aggravated by dehydration. For every two hours of air travel fliers raise their risk for venous thromboembolism by 26 percent.

Blood Clot Symptoms

Some of the symptoms an individual suffering from a blood clot experiences includes warmth, swelling, pain and redness in the limb. Blood clots have the potential to travel throughout the body. If the clot travels to the heart or brain it could prove fatal. Certain people are at significantly more risk to experience blood clots during a flight. People with an increased risk of blood clots include women on birth control pills, cancer patients and those who have had a major surgery recently such as a joint replacement.

Get Up, Stand Up

One of the best ways to alleviate leg pain during a flight is to get up and move around. Moving around and stretching the legs is necessary to keep blood moving and flowing smoothly. It is also important that travelers stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can keep the blood flowing smoothly through the veins and reduce the risk of leg pain. Travelers also shouldn’t wear tight clothing. Loose fitting, comfortable clothing is recommended for travelers who must sit for lengthy periods of time.

Exercise While Sitting

Sometimes simple and focused exercises can help with leg pain during travel. For example, rotate your ankles in a circular motion or stretch your legs by raising them up and down. This can work wonders for relieving discomfort. Another exercise is to tense up each muscle in the leg and then release the tension while doing deep breathing. Travelers should focus on small exercises that can properly maintain circulation and are easy to do in a confined space.


Some flights offer upgraded sitting options that provide travelers with more legroom. First class and business class have significantly more room and comfortable seats that allow people to stretch their bodies more and reduce pain. However, there are lower cost options available. For example, United Airlines offers an Economy Plus seating option that charges travelers a little extra for several more inches of legroom to stretch.

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