Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein that’s deep within the body. It usually occurs in the lower leg or thigh and can break off and travel dangerously through the bloodstream (called an embolism). An embolism can damage major organs by blocking blood flow and is a potentially life-threatening condition. Sitting for long periods when traveling can increase your risk of DVTs.
Blood Clot Formation
Blood clots may form when the flow of blood in the veins slows down or changes. To reduce your risk of DVT during travel…
- Change your leg position regularly
- Move and stretch your legs and feet periodically while seated
- Get up and walk around if possible
- Avoid crossing your legs at the knees or ankles
- Stay hydrated by drinking water, juice or milk to keep blood from becoming thicker and moving more slowly
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Wear gradient compression stockings to improve blood flow
- Do the following four leg exercises at least every hour:
1. Ankle Circles: Lift your foot off the floor and point your toes. Draw 10 circles in the air. Alternate direction. Continue circling for 30 seconds (about 40 circles). Repeat on other foot.
2. Foot Pump: Keep both heels on the floor. Point toes as far as possible toward you, then return your feet so they’re flat on the floor. Keep balls of feet on the floor and lift both heels as high as possible. Continue ‘pumping’ for 30 seconds (about 40 times total).
3. Knee Lifts: While seated, “march” slowly in place by bringing your knees up one at a time. Continue “marching” in place for 30 seconds (about 30 times).
4. Knee to Chest: Hold your right knee and pull it up to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly return it to the floor. Alternate legs. Repeat 10 times.
Warning: Do NOT perform these exercises if they cause pain or discomfort or if they’re not recommended by your physician.
Even When Grounded
Perform these leg exercises to increase circulation and reduce your risk of DVTs whenever you’re sitting or lying down for long periods of time, such as during long car rides, at work or during bed rest. Set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to move.
- Pain and tenderness in the leg, ankle and/or foot
- Pain may start in the calf and feel like a cramp
- Swelling in the affected leg, ankle and/or foot
- Warmth in the leg that is swollen or painful
- Skin discoloration (pale, red or blue)
- Dilation of surface veins
There are many risk factors that can cause you to be more prone to clotting. Be sure to discuss them with your doctor, e.g., family history of blood clots, obesity, fractures, recent surgery or childbirth, cancer, smoking, disease, certain medications, etc.