Tips for staving off `airplane ankles'

Q&A

May 13, 2007|By Los Angeles Times

When I fly, my ankles and feet swell up like balloons. I keep my shoes off and even curl my legs under me so they are not dangling. My doctors tell me I should walk around the aircraft, but security rules make that difficult. How can I continue to fly without having swollen feet?

Easy. By flying only to places that are within an hour or so of home.

For many people who love to travel, that's not very practical advice. But the realities of flying today also make it more difficult to address the issues that the realities create.

If you're sitting still, you're more apt to develop "airplane ankles" because blood will pool in your lower extremities. The way to reverse that is by moving around, which forces the blood back up. Getting up, however, could be your ticket to trouble. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, onboard security has become a delicate balancing act between passengers' rights and the need to ensure safety.

Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, says there is no security requirement for passengers to remain seated at all times. Here's his e-mail response:

"Often times, for shorter flights, captains will keep the seat belt sign on because there is little need to stretch one's legs, but if someone has a medical condition, they should not be stopped for any security purpose unless an incident is occurring."

Sounds good in theory, but the reality is that you're often not free to move about the cabin.

What's a poor passenger to do? Dr. Terri Rock and Dr. Vic Kovner, California physicians who are experts on health and travel, offer these suggestions:

Forget fashion. Wear loose-fitting clothing and consider -- shudder -- low-compression stockings.

Don't spend your pre-boarding time sitting down. Walk the concourse.

Exercise in your seat. Push the ball of your foot on the floor to constrict the calf muscles. Or use your feet to write each letter of the alphabet in the air.

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