Health

Is Walking Good For Blood Clots In The Leg

Blood clots that form in the deep veins of the leg, called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can be a dangerous condition. A major concern with DVT is the potential for the clot to break free and travel to the lungs, blocking blood flow in a sometimes fatal event called pulmonary embolism. For those diagnosed with a DVT, the question often arises -Is walking good for blood clots in the leg?

Typically, once anticoagulant treatment has been initiated, light activity like walking is considered beneficial and safe. Walking helps prevent new clot formation by stimulating blood flow in the veins. It also prevents deconditioning and swelling. However, more strenuous exercise must be avoided. Walking speeds up natural clot breakdown and improves long-term outcomes. As long as pain and swelling are not worsening, walking with a DVT is considered part of a healthy recovery plan.

Causes Of Blood Clots In The Leg

Here is a table summarizing some of the main causes of blood clots in the legs:

Cause Details
Injury to leg vein Damage to the inner lining of leg veins from trauma or surgery can trigger clotting.
Sitting still for long periods Lack of movement, especially when seated on long flights or car rides over 4+ hours allows blood to pool and clot.
Pregnancy Changes in hormones and increased pressure on veins from the uterus raise clot risk.
Birth control pills/hormones Estrogen can raise levels of certain blood clotting factors in some women.
Obesity Excess weight puts pressure on leg veins and increases risk.
Family history Genetic conditions that increase factors that cause excessive clotting can run in families.
Cancer/chemotherapy Certain cancers raise coagulation activity. Chemo damages vessels.
Smoking Toxins in cigarettes can damage blood vessels and affect clotting.
Heart disease Issues with heart rhythm and poor circulation can stagnate leg blood flow.
Leg vein inflammation Conditions like phlebitis or varicose veins can trigger local clotting.

This covers many of the major lifestyle factors, genetic conditions, and medical issues tied to the development of blood clots in the legs.

How Is Walking Good For Blood Clots In The Leg?

If you’ve recently developed a blood clot in your leg, getting regular physical activity might seem risky. However, for most patients, a gradual return to light walking offers more gains than dangers. This article provides an evidence-based look at how walking impacts blood clots in the leg.

Here are some ways that walking can be beneficial for patients with blood clots in the leg:

  • Improves circulation – Walking gets the leg muscles contracting which helps pump blood through the veins. This enhanced circulation reduces the stagnation of blood in the areas with clots.
  • Prevents new clot formation – Keeping the blood flowing helps prevent new clots from developing, which is a risk in immobile patients. Light activity is like a mild “self-administered” anticoagulation.
  • Strengthens calf muscles – The calf acts as a “secondary heart” for venous blood return. Walking strengthens calf muscles so they can pump more efficiently.
  • Reduces leg swelling – Walking boosts lymph drainage from the legs, helping reduce edema and post-thrombotic syndrome.
  • Stimulates natural fibrinolysis – Light activity stimulates the body’s natural processes for breaking down clots. Walking hastens clot resolution.
  • Prevents deconditioning – Bed rest leads to stiff joints, muscle atrophy, and balance/mobility issues. Walking prevents these problems.
  • Boosts overall health – Low-level activity maintains cardiovascular fitness and a sense of well-being during recovery.
  • Improves long-term outcomes – Research shows walking after DVT diagnosis speeds recovery and lowers risks of recurrent DVT or post-thrombotic syndrome.

So in summary, walking is an excellent part of treatment for patients with leg DVT, as long as pain and swelling are tolerable. Checking with the doctor for guidance on safe activity levels is advised.

What Happens When A Blood Clot Forms?

Blood clots result from the solidification of blood components to plug damaged areas of blood vessel lining or “endothelium”. This begins the wound-healing process. Clots become problematic when forming in otherwise healthy vessels, especially in the legs. Here’s a quick science overview:

  • Blood clotting involves platelets and proteins like fibrin. This results in a gel-like blood clump.
  • Clots often arise in leg vein valves, where blood can pool and coagulate. These are called deep vein thromboses (DVTs).
  • An unstable clot can break off and travel to the lung arteries. This pulmonary embolism is life-threatening.

Early, gentle walking helps prevent complications in most patients with leg DVTs. Let’s explore why.

How Might Walking Help After A Leg Blood Clot?

For decades, strict bed rest was standard for initial DVT treatment. However, evidence shows that resuming normal daily movement more quickly improves outcomes. Here’s how light physical activity like walking may help:

  • Improves circulation: Moving leg muscles gently squeezes veins, keeping blood flowing. This prevents more clots from forming.
  • Reduces swelling: Walking boosts drainage of fluid buildup in tissues (edema) around the clot.
  • Eases leg discomfort: Slow movement releases natural pain-relieving endorphins.
  • Speeds up recovery: Light activity starts reconditioning weakened calf muscles after immobility.
  • Improves mental health: Getting mobile again aids motivation and limits the risks of depression.

What Are The Risks?

For most patients, the potential benefits of walking after a leg DVT outweigh any risks. However, some concerns about clot dislodgement do exist in specific cases. Here’s an overview:

  • In the first 1-2 weeks, clots are still unsecured within the vein. Aggressive activity could loosen and move parts downstream. But for calf vein clots, dislodgement mainly poses risks to overall recovery, not mortality.
  • Upper leg (femoral vein) clots are more dangerous if parts break off early on. However, even vigorous walking has an extremely low chance of doing this in most patients. Either way, risks are temporary until clots adhere firmly.
  • Factors like underlying lung conditions can heighten risks from clot dislodgement. So, some patients might require more strict rest.

Again though, current guidelines emphasize walking safety for most individuals. Let’s look at helpful strategies.

Tips For Safe And Effective Walking After A Leg Blood Clot

Follow this advice to maximize the benefits of walking during DVT recovery:

Start very gradually: Begin walking just 10-15 minutes daily, even just around your home. Slowly increase durations as able over subsequent days and weeks. Listen to your body and rest when needed.

Keep movements relaxed: Maintain a leisurely pace using shorter strides for the first week or two. No fast walking or suddenly stopping/starting. Smooth motions ensure steady blood flow.

Try compression stockings: Compression socks, hose or sleeves boost blood return from legs to limit swelling and vein pressure. They also discourage clot spread.

Elevate legs frequently: While sedentary, prop up your legs above heart level as much as possible. This also minimizes edema.

Stay hydrated: Getting adequate fluids prevents thickening blood while immobile or walking.

Use any ambulation aids: Canes, walkers or crutches reduce strain on the leg with a DVT while getting mobile. Allow your other leg to do most work.

Routine light walking paces recovery without boosted risks in most patients with leg blood clots. Discuss a gradual plan that’s right for your unique condition with your medical providers.

FAQs

How soon after a DVT diagnosis can I start walking?

Many doctors now encourage starting mild walking activities almost immediately. However, right after diagnosis, initial strict rest for 1-3 days allows protective clot hardening before gradual remobilization.

If I feel calf pain while walking, should I stop?

It depends. If pain remains at a manageable level, keep walking but a little slower. However sharp or increasing discomfort could signal recurrence or complications, requiring an exam. Stop and contact your doctor promptly.

Is stair climbing considered safe after recent leg blood clots?

During early recovery, stick to level ground walking only. But as your conditioning returns over subsequent weeks, slowly tackling gentle stair climbing can be reintroduced under guidance from your healthcare providers.

Can I do higher-impact exercises like running after a DVT?

Jogging, jumping and other jarring activities may need to remain off limits for those at high clot recurrence risk even months later. But your recovery regimen can be customized. Discuss specific restrictions with your care team. Most can eventually resume all normal fitness.

How can I prevent blood clots when flying after a recent DVT?

Those at increased overall clot risk may require anticoagulant medication long-term when flying. Compression socks, staying hydrated, and frequent calf flexing motions while seated can also help prevent recurrent travel-linked DVTs.

Last Words

walking is considered beneficial and recommended activity for those suffering from or at risk of developing blood clots in the legs, medically referred to as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Light to moderate-intensity walking helps prevent the formation of leg blood clots by boosting blood circulation in the lower extremities. For individuals already diagnosed with a DVT blood clot, regular walking is unlikely to exacerbate the clot or cause it to travel due to the lower impact of this form of exercise. However, it’s still imperative they consult a doctor on appropriate levels of activity and watch closely for any worsening pain, swelling, or other clinical manifestations. While not a standalone treatment, establishing a regimen of frequent, brisk walks supports anticoagulation therapy and healthy vascular functioning for reducing future incidence of recurring lower extremity blood clots. Lifestyle changes like avoiding long sedentary periods and staying adequately hydrated should be adopted in tandem with a walking plan for optimal prevention.

Selina

My name is Selina, a medical specialist blogger helping people access treatment for 5+ years. Although blogging awhile, only recently deeply engaged. This past year my most productive, providing hospital reviews and info on symptoms, diagnoses and diseases. Also offer guidelines to help readers navigate healthcare. Goal to continue increased content pace to assist many. Aim to facilitate treatment and empower advocacy through writing.

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