Travel related Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is rare in healthy people, but it’s a good idea to take precautions if you are travelling long distance.
What is DVT?
A DVT or deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg. We tend to think of a DVT happening only to people on long haul flights, but you are also at risk if your journey is by car, coach or train and is over 3 hours long.
So, how can we prevent DVT’s occurring?
We believe in prevention rather than cure at FLexercise HQ. The key thing to remember is that we are not ever going to prevent DVT 100% of the time. What we are trying to do is minimise risk. Here are some very easy and sensible suggestions to get you started.
You will probably regard these as pretty obvious but it is amazing how many people don’t take the obvious precautions.
What exercises should I do to help prevent a DVT occuring?
We recommend that you do calf exercises at least every half hour whilst travelling. Many of the calf, foot and ankle exercises are ones we do in class so they should feel pretty easy for you.
With your toes on the floor, lift and lower your heels 10 times. Then reverse the movement, so keep your heels on the floor and lift your toes towards your ankles. This provides a pumping action in the blood vessels and helps blood return to the heart.
Lift one leg with the knee bent and rotate the ankle both ways. Then repeat the movement on the other leg. You can also do seated marching exercises. Lift one leg with the knee bent and replace it. Then repeat on the other side. But, you do have to be aware of those around you as well!
The final part of the pumping exercises is to clench your buttock muscles, either one buttock at a time or simultaneously. You may feel pretty daft but we reckon a few moments of feeling silly is better than risking a DVT.
Click the link to see our healthy tootsies blog which has many of the DVT prevention exercises in it. https://www.fl-exercise.com/barefoot-exercises-for-healthy-feet/
Who is most at risk of getting a DVT?
Some health conditions put you at a higher risk of DVT. If you have a history of blood clots or pulmonary embolism (clot in the lung) for example. If you have had a stroke, have heart disease or have cancer, this will also increase your risk. Being pregnant, having recently given birth or undergone abdominal or pelvic surgery will also raise your risk. Finally, if you are on any oestrogen therapy, such as HRT or the combined contraceptive pill you should also consider taking precautions.
Are flight socks a good idea?
Flight socks or compression stockings may help prevent DVT if you are in one of the at-risk groups. You must make sure they are correctly fitted. Poorly fitting compression stockings can actually increase your risk of DVT so please seek advice from your pharmacist.
We would recommend that if you are in any doubt, you should talk to your GP and get advice, plenty of time before you travel. If you already suffer from DVT, it is possible you won’t be offered compression socks as it is not clear whether they actually prevent further clots occurring.
How do I know if I have got a DVT?
In some cases, DVT will cause no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they will include pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually your calf), a heavy ache in the affected area, warm skin in the area of the clot and red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee
DVT usually (although not always) affects one leg. The pain may be worse when you flex your foot upward towards your knee.
1 in 10 people with a DVT will go on to get a pulmonary embolus (clot on the lung). This is a serious condition which causes breathlessness and chest pain.
What do I do if I suspect I have a DVT or pulmonary embolus?
You must seek medical help immediately if have pain, swelling, and tenderness in your leg, and you develop breathlessness and chest pain. Please don’t ignore the symptoms. They can be life-threatening. There is lots of great advice on DVT prevention and treatment on the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/prevent-dvt-when-you-travel/
So, remember prevention is better than cure. Seek medical advice before you travel. Do your foot, ankle and leg exercises and enjoy your travels.
The information in this blog has been drawn from information freely available on the internet.
FLexercise have taken every care to ensure the information is correct at the time of going to press. You must seek medical attention if you think you are at risk of getting or have got a DVT.