Travel can be uncomfortable with varicose veins. You end up sitting for long periods in a car, train, bus, or plane — often without the chance to put your feet up or walk around. As you may have already noticed living with varicose veins, extended sitting can make your symptoms worse.
You may have also heard that sitting on planes for hours can be dangerous if you have varicose veins. There are some risks involved, but don’t worry — anyone can learn how to travel with varicose veins safely and comfortably.
Are Varicose Veins Dangerous for Travelers?
People talk a lot about varicose veins, travel, and a condition called deep vein thrombosis. DVT is a condition where a blood clot forms in one of the veins deep inside your body. These clots can be serious, but they’re not nearly as big of a problem as social media would have you believe.
The risk of getting DVT on a plane at all is only about 3%. And when you focus on the most dangerous side effects of DVT, that risk goes down to just one in 700,000 or one per million for shorter flights.
Varicose veins are also only one of the many conditions that could potentially increase your risk of DVT, and you can manage that extra risk fairly easily. It’s mostly a matter of encouraging circulation, which also helps with the management of varicose vein symptoms.
What Should You Do When Traveling With Varicose Veins?
Travel can be uncomfortable for people with varicose veins because sitting still inhibits your circulation. That’s true for everyone, but because varicose veins are weaker than healthy veins, they’re less able to pump blood from the legs back to the heart on their own.
Below are some tips you should follow while traveling, to ease your varicose veins symptoms and keep yourself healthy throughout your trip.
Make Time for Movement
Movement helps to keep the circulation going so the blood doesn’t pool and cause symptoms like aching, itching, or throbbing. Any time you travel, make a point to get up and walk as much as possible. Take plenty of breaks during your road trip.
On a plane, get up and walk the aisle regularly whenever the seatbelt sign is off. You may find that it’s easier to get up and walk on the plane if you request an aisle seat. This also gives you more space to stretch your legs when the aisle is empty.
Stretch and Strengthen While Seated
Some flights have limited time and space for walking, especially if you hit turbulence and the flight attendants make you keep your seatbelt fastened. That’s okay — there are still exercises you can do to keep the blood flowing in your legs. For example:
- Rotate your ankles, five times in one direction and five times in the other.
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor, then raise your heels and hold the position. Lower your heels and lift your toes. Repeat this 10 times if you can.
- Sit with the balls of your feet on the floor, then “run in place,” lifting one foot and then the other off the ground.
- Lift one knee to your chest, hug it tight for five seconds, then lower it and repeat with the other leg.
You can also do any of these exercises on a bus, train, or car — just not while you’re driving.
Wear Gradient Compression Stockings
When you sit still too long with varicose veins, blood collects in your legs instead of making its way back to the heart. Gradient compression stockings counteract this process by applying steady pressure up the legs, encouraging the blood to move in the correct direction.
Gradient compression stockings are proven to help reduce varicose vein pain and other symptoms. A vein specialist can offer more information about which types and styles to choose for travel.
Choose Loose-Fitting Clothing
Gradient compression stockings work because they encourage blood back to the heart. Tight-fitting clothing, especially constricting pant legs or waistbands, has the opposite effect. It constricts your blood vessels, making it tougher for your circulatory system to do its job.
When you travel, skip the skinny jeans and opt for something softer and looser. Elastic-waist skirts and sweatpants are excellent choices.
It’s not your imagination — airplane cabins are extremely dry. Planes pull in about half of their circulating air from outside, and high altitudes have extremely low humidity levels. You’ll usually get relative humidity (RH) levels between 5% and 12% on a plane — for reference, comfortable RH is about 20%.
Dehydration inhibits your circulation, so it can make varicose vein symptoms worse. Keep your blood flowing and your legs comfortable by drinking plenty of water throughout your trip.
Don’t Put Yourself to Sleep
It’s tempting to take a sleep aid or antihistamine before traveling. It cuts down on nerves, and it seems like it would keep you comfortable. But if you sleep too long, you won’t have the chance to stretch your legs as much as you should.
Have You Considered Seeing a Vein Specialist?
Many people decide to get professional treatment for their varicose veins. If you’re concerned about the discomfort of traveling or simply don’t want your legs to look better on the beach, consider talking with a varicose vein specialist.
My Vein Treatment’s vein specialist locator tool can help you to connect with a qualified professional. It’s easier and more reliable than Googling “vein care center near me,” and you’ll get the chance to connect with a qualified professional in your area.
Your vein specialist can give you recommendations for travel, including whether you might want to consider treatment before your trip. Either way, your specialist will help you strategize for a safe and comfortable trip.