How to avoid “economy class syndrome” while traveling

Anyone who travels long distances in a sitting position is at risk for leg complications. Wearing compression socks or stockings can help prevent these problems and will greatly increase your comfort along the way.

How to avoid “economy class syndrome” while traveling

Have a light-legged trip!

Whether you travel by plane, train, or car, one drawback of travelling is that it requires you to sit for long periods of time with restricted leg mobility.

This restricted leg mobility can lead to leg symptoms like heavy and tired legs and/or swollen feet, ankles, and legs. In the worst case, it can also lead to something called “traveller’s thrombosis,” a serious condition during which a blood clot forms in a deep leg vein.

Read more about potential distress during travel and how compression wear can help keep you safe and comfortable during your next trip.


What is “traveller’s thrombosis” or “economy class syndrome”?


When sitting for long periods of time, the risk of thrombosis increases. This serious condition is also known as “traveller’s thrombosis” or “economy class syndrome” and refers to a blood clot formation in the deep leg veins caused by prolonged sitting with bent legs and restricted leg mobility while travelling by plane, bus, train, or car.

Under normal conditions, the leg muscles serve as a pump system that supports the venous return from the feet to the heart. If leg movement is limited, the activity of the leg muscle pumps is restricted and the blood starts to stagnate in the leg veins.

This increases the risk for the development of a thrombotic event. The risk is further increased due to prolonged sitting which leads to a compression of the leg veins.

DVT can happen to anyone during travel, but certain risk factors like advanced age, heart insufficiency, obesity, pregnancy, intake of hormonal products for contraception or menopause, recent surgeries, and large varicose veins further increase the risk of DVT.

The nasty thing about "traveller’s thrombosis": Symptoms often only occur a few days or even weeks after your trip.

Traveller’s thrombosis is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. In the worst cases, blood clots will detach and migrate to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism (PE), a potentially fatal event.

Compression wear can help prevent leg symptoms, like tired, heavy, and swollen legs, and traveller’s thrombosis.


Risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increases when travel extends four hours or more and requires you to remain seated. 

Symptom check:Could it be traveller’s thrombosis?


The following symptoms are warning signs for traveller’s thrombosis. However, symptoms vary and they do not all have to occur at the same time.

  • Painful and swollen legs and calves
  • Skin redness and discoloration
  • Locally elevated temperature

A thrombus in a superficial vein usually occurs with inflammation. Symptoms may also appear some time after you’ve completed your trip. If you suspect a thrombosis, please consult a doctor immediately.


Ask your physician for information regarding the prevention of DVT and other venous problems during travel. 

What are the benefits of compression wear for travel?


A simple and comfortable way to help relieve the symptoms of heavy, painful, and swollen legs during and after travel is to wear graduated compression stockings.

Additionally, compression wear is recommended to reduce the risk of developing more serious conditions such as phlebitis, DVT, or pulmonary embolism during long-distance travel by increasing blood circulation and improving venous return.

Compression stockings have been proven to prevent travel related leg symptoms reliably.




Once you discover the benefits and comfort of compression stockings during travel, you may want to continue wearing them in your daily life.

  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing.
  • Move your feet and ankles every 30 minutes (10 flexes and 10 circles).
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration; avoid alcohol.
  • Take a short walk at least every two hours, be it on the plane or train or at a service station.
  • Do not cross your legs as this reduces blood flow.
  • Wear compression socks or compression stockings to prevent symptoms and swelling. 
A man and a woman at a hotel reception

Further reading

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a serious condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the lower leg or calf and blocks blood flow. DVT can lead to leg swelling, redness, and pain, but it can also occur without these symptoms. DVT can become a life-threatening condition if the blood clot breaks loose from its original location in the vein and travels through the bloodstream into the lungs. This potentially fatal event is known as pulmonary embolism (PE). Here you can find more information on DVT in general and solutions for its prevention.
What is medical compression therapy and how does it work?

What is medical compression therapy and how does it work?

Medical compression therapy applies a type of elastic device on limbs or other body parts to exert a controlled pressure on them. Thereby, the device squeezes the vein walls together and improves the circulatory rate. Medical compression also helps with reduction of oedema and recreates conditions beneficial for the healing of chronic inflammatory disorders.
Get rid of misconceptions on compression wear

Get rid of misconceptions on compression wear

Rumours, misconceptions, reluctance, and preconceived ideas on compression wear persist. For too long, medical compression stockings have struggled with their dated image that is far from today’s reality. It’s time to get rid of the most popular misconceptions.
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