Easy exercises to help prevent deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that occurs within a deep vein in the body, often in the leg. Many people associate DVT with air travel, but this is because one of the ways it can be caused is by remaining in the same position for long periods.


Most people know that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life.  However, very few know that prolonged immobility in the workplace also poses an immediate threat, more than doubling the risk of developing a potentially fatal blood clot. It is vital that this potential risk is recognised in both the office and at home.   Video Gamers are also at risk as they can spend many hours sitting in one place, often putting off taking comfort breaks whilst playing a game.

After sitting for 90 minutes the blood flow at the back of the knee drops by half and this increases the chances of developing a blood clot two-fold.

For every hour spent sitting, the risk of a blood clot increases by 10 per cent and there are around 60,000 potentially fatal blood clots recorded in Britain each year.

Journeys more than five hours long by car, plane or train can increase the risk of a DVT four-fold.

It is worth being aware of the risks of DVT if you are planning on doing any significant travelling this summer – and there are some simple exercises, along with some lifestyle changes, that you can do to help prevent it from happening.

Often patients think they have a musculoskeletal injury and put off seeking treatment in the initial stages.  It is however important to seek help as early as possible so that treatment can be started.

Following this advice and doing the exercises will help you to arrive at your destination feeling better and fresher too!


What causes DVT?

The NHS website says DVT can be caused by the following:

  • having a history of DVT or pulmonary embolism
  • having a family history of blood clots
  • being inactive for long periods – such as after an operation or during a long journey
  • blood vessel damage – a damaged blood vessel wall can result in the formation of a blood clot
  • having certain conditions or treatments that cause your blood to clot more easily than normal – such as cancer (including chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment), heart and lung disease, thrombophilia and Hughes syndrome
  • being pregnant – your blood also clots more easily during pregnancy
  • being overweight or obese


What are the symptoms?

There are sometimes no symptoms of DVT, until it happens, but the sufferer may experience one or more of the following:

  • 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
  • red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee

DVT can lead to a pulmonary embolism, a very serious condition that occurs when a clot blocks one of the blood vessels in the lungs.


How can I avoid or prevent DVT?

Broadly speaking, it can help to eat a balanced diet and avoid smoking. It is also recommended that you take regular exercise, which will help reduce your risk of DVT.

There are special compression/flight socks that can be worn by those at risk of DVT, to reduce their chances of developing it.

During the journey, walk around as much as you can, wear comfortable, loose clothing, and do the following basic exercises to help keep your blood flowing.

These can be done in a sitting position:

  1. Foot pumps. Place your feet flat on the floor, and then raise your toes toward you and hold for a few seconds. Lower your toes and balls of your feet to the floor, then raise your heels and hold for another few seconds.
  2. Ankle circles. Raise both feet off the floor and trace a circle with your toes.
  3. Leg raises. If you have room in front of you, raise your left foot off the floor. Straighten the leg slowly, then return your foot back on the floor. Repeat with your right leg. Alternatively, if you have less space, lift your knee up to your chest, then bring your foot back to the floor; repeat with the other leg.
  4. Shoulder rolls. Although you’re less likely to form a clot in your upper body, it doesn’t hurt to keep your blood flowing there. Simply raise your shoulders and circle them back and down five times. Then reverse direction for five more repetitions.


Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic works with thousands of patients every year to help them recover from injury, improve their mobility, enhance their sporting performance and reach new levels, and improve their quality of life.

Although we work with a lot of elite athletes, we also have a huge number of non-sporting clients, too.

Pain and discomfort does not need to be an accepted part of your daily life – if you find you struggle with simple tasks, or cannot do the things you used to enjoy doing, then we may be able to help. Contact us via this form or on 0191 233 0500 to find out how we can help you.