Traveling for the holidays? Beware of DVT

Keep circulation flowing to reduce the risk of blood clots while traveling

The holidays are the time of year more people travel and spend long hours in trains, planes and cars.  All that time in cramped quarters and not moving around can increase the risk of developing a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT.  There is evidence that flights lasting four hours or more may increase the risk of developing DVT.

What is DVT?

DVT is a condition in which a clot, or thrombus, develops in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg.  DVT can cause pain in the leg and can potentially lead to complications.  DVT can be caused by a damaged vein or by changes in the flow of blood.  Generally the risk of developing DVT when traveling is very small unless one or more other risk factors are present.

How do you prevent DVT?

Dr. Eugene Laveroni, a Botsford Hospital vascular surgeon, advises to keep your circulation flowing by walking up and down the aisles or getting out of the car to stretch.  You may also want to try the following exercises:

  1. Foot Roll: Take your shoes off and roll your feet into balls, then spread your toes out as wide as possible.  Roll your feet from heels to toes on the floor, getting first the toes and then the heels up off the floor as high as possible to give the feet a good stretch.
  2. Ankle Rotations: Still with your shoes off, lift your feet up off the floor as high as possible and circle each ankle five times in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction.
  3. Downward Foot Press: Press the balls of your feet down hard against the floor and raise your heels to increase the blood flow in your legs.  Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times.
  4. Shoulder Rolls: To ease the tension of sitting in one position for too long, lift the shoulders up towards the ears, roll the shoulders backwards and then down in a big circle.  This will help to release tension in the upper back and neck.
  5. Elbow Circles: Place your fingertips on your shoulders and draw circles in the air with your elbows.  This is also another great move to help release tension in the neck and upper back.
  6. Arch your back to relieve all the muscles around your mid-section that have probably been taking a good rest while you’ve been sitting.
  7. Point your toes to stretch the muscles at the front of the lower leg and bring your toes back towards you to stretch the calf at the back.

After doing all that hard work, reward yourself with a drink of water and continue to re-hydrate regularly during your journey.

If you would like more information on DVT, talk to your doctor or find a doctor here.

What tips do you have for fellow travelers to help keep circulation flowing?

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