After sitting all scrunched up on that never-ending flight, the pain in your leg might be only a fleeting muscle cramp. The condition isn’t limited to air travel, however. It was described first in 1940 by British physicians who observed an increase in pulmonary embolism among people sitting in crowded air-raid shelters during the London “Blitz.” The most common symptom is pain in the calf muscles developed during or shortly after a long airplane flight. The pain may be mistaken for a muscle cramp, but it can indicate formation of a deep vein clot resulting from sludging of blood in static leg muscles. Typically, the clot dissolves and pain subsides after air travellers reach their destination and have an opportunity to walk around.
Dr. Mohler offers the following advice for preventing economy class syndrome on long flights: Book exit row, bulkhead, or aisle seats to get more leg room.
Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid knee-length stockings that constrict circulation.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which contribute to dehydration during long flights. Drink plenty of other fluids.
Walk up and down the aisle periodically.
Massage feet, ankles, lower legs, and knees to move blood out of the legs and toward the heart.
While seated, exercise calf muscles by clenching your toes.
According to Dr. Mohler, people at high risk of blood clots should consult their doctor about taking a half-strength aspirin to thin the blood before long flights.