Pins and Needles After Flight

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That tingling sensation that can be felt in the feet and legs (as well as hands, arms, lips, and elsewhere on the body) is called pins and needles. If you often take long distance flights, you know that pins and needles are a common occurrence during and after traveling by plane.

It is an uncomfortable feeling, depending on its severity. The good news is that oftentimes, it is not a major cause for concern. However, at times, it may be an indicator that something is going on inside the body that calls for medical attention.

So what causes pins and needles after a flight? It is due to sitting for a long time on a plane. This can cause the nerves in your upper legs to get pressed, thus causing the rest of the nerves to misfire the moment that the pressure is relieved. Standing up and walking for a while can help put to an end that annoying pins and needles sensation.

According to health authorities, however, sometimes pins and needles are a sign of the presence of a problem that is related to the health. Some of the most common examples are diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, deficiency in vitamin B12, iron deficiency, too much consumption of alcohol, and kidney disease.

Pins and needles as a result of flying can sometimes be due to a life-threatening condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you would like to learn more about pins and needles after a flight because you tend to travel by plane a lot, keep on reading. Below we will discuss some of the most important matters about pins and needles sensation.

It is Not a Serious Issue Most of the Time

Everyone can have that pins and needles sensation every now and then. In fact, you may have already experienced it several times throughout your life.

You can end up having pins and needles after sitting for a while. This is especially true if you are on the floor sitting on your legs. The minute you stand up, you may start to have a tingling sensation in your feet and at times, lower legs, too.

It is very much possible to experience pins and needles only on one foot, in particular after sitting on just one of your legs. By the way, you may also have pins and needles after sitting for several hours on an office chair.

The risk of having the uncomfortable feeling is higher if not enough cushion between your behind and the chair is available.

Actually, you can also have pins and needles elsewhere on your body. For instance you may have it in your fingers, hands and forearms if your work entails typing on a keyboard for hours.

The same is true if you engage in habits that involve repeated use of your hands, such as knitting needles. Do you suffer from anxiety disorder, and you are prone to hyperventilating?

Then you may experience pins and needles on your lips, face, fingers, and toes each time you are having a bout of anxiety, and you are taking quick and shallow breaths.

When it comes to flying, pins and needles are a common occurrence. It is very much possible for you to encounter them as soon as you stand up to exit the plane.

As a matter of fact, you may also experience pins and needles when you go to the aircraft lavatory after being motionless in your seat for quite some time.

DVT is a Rare But Serious Medical Condition

When you experience pins and needles while flying or doing something else such as working, surfing the web, watching movies, playing video games or engaging in handicrafts, it is a sign that you have been sitting more than necessary.

Just like what was mentioned early on in this article, being seated for a long time can cause pins and needles as some of the nerves, in particular, the sciatic nerves located in your upper legs, are being pinched.

Needless to say, encountering the strange feeling on a plane is just an indicator that you are spending a lot of time in your seat. Sometimes it serves as a sign that you are not changing your position enough while sitting.

Regardless of the case, being seated for a long time on a plane may increase your risk of what’s known as DVT. Short for deep vein thrombosis, it is a medical condition that is characterized by the presence of a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the legs.

According to health authorities, there are various causes of DVT. Some of them include blood disorders, heart disease, being obese, cigarette smoking, and the intake of certain medications such as birth control pills.

Another common cause is being immobile for a while, such as being seated on a plane for several hours.

DVT is considered as a very serious matter because the blood clot may travel to the body and reach the lungs. When this happens, your body may fail to get much-needed oxygen. By the way, this complication of DVT is what’s called pulmonary embolism in the medical community.

Fret not because DVT is actually rare. As a matter of fact, it is said that only 1 to 2 in every 1,000 people encounter the life-threatening condition.

But if you are experiencing some unusual signs and symptoms such as leg pain, warmth in the painful area, leg swelling, leg redness or bluishness, and an enlarged leg vein, then make sure that you get seen by a doctor right away.

You Can Keep Pins and Needles From Ruining Your Trip

In some cases, the presence of pins and needles is nothing serious. There are instances, however, in which it is a cause for concern. If you often find yourself battling such an unusual sensation while traveling by plane, worry not. That’s because there are actually ways to keep those pins and needles from bugging you.

Without further ado, here are some tips on preventing pins and needles as well as the complications they bring:

Change your sitting position regularly

Do you feel annoyed when the person seated next to you seems to shift in position all the time? Don’t — he or she may simply be aware that it is an effective way to fend off pins and needles as well as DVT.

Needless to say, you should also regularly change your sitting position throughout the flight.

Walk around while thousands of feet in the air

The World Health Organization (WHO) actually recommends airline passengers to walk around the plane every now and then to avoid not only pins and needles but also DVT. You may also pretend to use the bathroom often, but it’s just to allow you to have a reason to walk around.

Travel business or first class

We all know that business or first class seats are wider, thus allowing us to change our sitting position without any trouble. There’s also more legroom available, which permits us to stretch our legs to our heart’s content. So if you have the budget, upgrade to business or first class.

Drink plenty of water

Here’s a reason for you to step foot in the aircraft lavatory more often: consume sufficient amounts of water. This is also effective for preventing DVT because staying hydrated can help to lower the risk of blood thickening and the formation of a blood clot that can put your life in some form of danger.

Get your regular dose of exercise

Especially if you travel a lot by plane, it is a good idea for you to stay in great physical shape. This helps to ensure that your blood will remain circulating properly even when you’re trapped in the cabin for several hours.

Exercising regularly is good for preventing not only DVT but many other health problems, too.

Related Questions

Is there a medical term for pins and needles?

Yes, the weird tingling sensation is referred to as paresthesia by doctors. Paresthesia may also sometimes indicate other sensations such as burning, chilling, or numbness.

Are there vitamins that can help to fend off pins and needles?

Supplementing with B complex is a great idea as many B vitamins are essential for keeping the nerves healthy.

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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