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How to Relieve Restless Legs on Long Flights

Airplane flying restless legs syndrome

For some people, a long flight is idyllic—a chance to look at the clouds and experience that airy, untethered feeling of being disconnected from the earth. But for others, an airplane cabin is something more akin to a torture chamber. This is especially true for sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome, an irresistible impulse to move the legs that worsens during long periods of inactivity. If you suffer from RLS, you already know how badly the jittery, “pins-and-needles” sensations can affect you when you’re in your own bed, and are most likely dreading experiencing the same symptoms while trapped on a tiny plane.

However, it’s not as bad as it seems. While there is no cure for RLS, there are many ways to alleviate the symptoms during a long flight. Here are the top 5 ways you can find relief.

plane seats restless leg syndromeChoose your seat wisely.

You can’t choose whether or not you will experience RLS on a flight, but you can usually choose where you’ll be seated. Book an aisle seat instead of a window seat, as it will allow you to periodically stretch your legs without disturbing the person next to you. Sitting in the bulkhead or next to an emergency exit might also provide some much-needed leg room. If the online check-in won’t allow you to pick your seat, arrive early and tell the gate agent that you have a medical issue. Describe your condition honestly and accurately, and the airline may be able to accommodate your needs.

Upgrade to a better class

If you can afford it, first class and business class seating are usually worlds above the economy class in terms of leg room. Not many people have the means to fly first class often, but if your flights are a total misery, it might be a worthwhile investment in your own peace of mind. Business class, on the other hand, is much more affordable and still allows ample room for stretching. If you are traveling for work reasons, business class seating can sometimes be billed to a client or employer if you are using it for health reasons.

Exercise before your flight

Many RLS sufferers find that exercising a few hours before their flight can help burn off some extra energy and relieve their restlessness later on. If you don’t have the time for a workout in the busy pre-flight hours, try to stay active right up to the moments before boarding. Walk, stand, stretch, and browse the airport shops to keep your legs busy. Additionally, watch what you eat the night before your trip: greasy foods, alcohol, and caffeine can all exacerbate RLS.

Use medications

RLS is a genuine neurological condition, and as such, it is best treated with a proper diagnosis from a neurological specialist.  A doctor can prescribe gabapentin or even supplements like iron and magnesium that might make your condition easier to bear. Start any prescriptions as early as possible, long before your flight, so that your body will already be used to them by the time you board. A plane is the last place you want to be if any unexpected side effects hit!

Wear a compression sleeve

Many RLS sufferers find relief on long flights by wearing neoprene compression sleeves. Usually worn by athletes to enhance performance and aid in recovery, compression sleeves are also useful for relieving discomfort, as the compression provides support for muscles and tissues. Compression sleeves such as the CS6 Calf Compression Sleeves are light and comfortable, yet firm enough to relieve those twitchy, “itchy” impulses from your leg muscles. If you’re an RLS sufferer anticipating a big flight, buy a pair today so that you can enjoy a twitch-free ride and finally get some shut-eye.

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