Exercises to Prevent DVT During Trips
Written by Dallas Vein Specialists on October 22, 2015
Immobility is one of the most common causes of blood clots developing in a vein, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT most often begins in the lower legs and can potentially turn into a serious, even fatal condition if the blood clot extends, breaks off and travels to the lungs.
Sitting without moving, and with the legs bent at the knee, causes reduced emptying of the leg veins and causes stagnation of venous blood. This increases the risk of DVT. The idea of developing a blood clot can be frightening, especially for people who travel often via train, car or plane. Fortunately, there are a few preventive measures one can take to reduce ones risk of DVT during a long flight, drive or any other situation when mobility is scarce. Here, I share several exercises that may be used during a long trip to reduce the risk of DVT.
EXERCISES FOR DVT PREVENTION
Practicing the following exercises during a long trip, 20 times each, approximately every 30 minutes, can help reduce the risk of developing DVT.
Foot pumps. Start by placing the feet flat on the floor or with legs stretched out. Raise the feet and toes upward only bending at the ankles; hold for a few seconds. The calf muscles should be contracted and pulling as the heels of the feet are elevated. Relax, letting the foot fall back, and then repeat again. The voluntary, intermittent strong contractions of the calf muscles act as a pump to empty the lower leg veins and propel blood out of the legs toward the heart and the central circulation. Similar calf contractions occurs when one walks, again activating the calf “musculovenous pump” that increases the venous blood flow out of the legs.
Ankle circles. Raise both feet off the floor and trace a circle with the toes. One can feel a similar contraction of the calf musculature.
Take walking breaks. If traveling by bus, train or plane, walk down the aisle every hour or so if possible. If traveling by car, try to stop every hour to take a walking break.
Request an aisle seat. For those who are at increased risk for developing DVT, request an aisle seat so as to allow extra leg room. This will facilitate getting up for walking breaks.
Wear compression stockings. Compression stockings are made with the intention of improving the emptying of venous blood from the legs. The stockings come in a variety of sizes and compression levels. The best are prescription grade and are fitted to the patient’s measurements. They are graduated, meaning the compression is greatest at the ankle and lower leg. These stockings prevent the swelling of the ankles that occurs in many individuals that spend long hours in cars and planes.
GET YOUR VEIN HEALTH CHECKED
Individuals with a history of DVT or pulmonary embolism are at increased risk for DVT. Pregnancy and obesity can also put people at a higher risk of developing DVT. It is important to be aware of the risk of DVT with travel or immobility. Dallas Vein Specialists may be a resource for such patients. A personal consultation if desired may be scheduled by calling (214) 221-9222.