Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Deep Vein Thrombosis

I see many clients for tight sore calf muscles, especially this time of year, as people become more active in the nicer weather.  Every once in a blue moon I come across a sore calf that I won’t massage though!

A few years ago a client of mine came in complaining of a sore calf muscle, which had flared up since coming home from a spring holiday in Hawaii.  She hadn’t noticed it on her holiday, and couldn’t remember doing anything to strain the muscle.  In fact, she did almost nothing during her holiday, but spent long hours relaxing and reading in a lounge chair. 

On initial observation I noticed her leg was slightly swollen, red and warm to the touch.  Gentle pressure caused her discomfort.  I recommended she check in with her doctor as soon as possible, and chose not to give her a massage therapy treatment that day.

She called me the following day to inform me that she had been diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg.  It can occur in situations where blood flow from the legs is impeded, or blood clotting is increased.  DVT can also happen in response to direct trauma to the area.  Some situations that can increase the chances of DVT formation include sitting or travelling for long periods, prolonged immobilization, pregnancy or obesity.  Risk also increases with age, oral contraceptives, smoking and surgery.

DVT should be taken seriously as there is a chance that the clot could dislodge and move into the lungs.  It occurs most often in the legs, but can occur elsewhere in the body as well.
If you are experiencing pain, swelling and redness in a leg, arm, abdominal region or neck, it is important to get checked out as soon as possible.

As with many medical conditions, there are things you can do to prevent, or at least decrease your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis formation, the best and easiest being walking.  While the heart pumps blood out to your extremities, it is muscle contractions that push blood back up to the heart via veins.  Veins are designed with one-way valves, so as muscles contract, the blood gets squeezed upward, and the valves stop it from flowing back down. 

Calf exercises can be utilized in situations where walking isn’t possible (such as during flights, long periods of sitting/immobilization, or in individuals with impaired ability to walk).

Compression stockings and medications can be used for at risk individuals, especially in instances where they are going to be travelling, immobilized or require surgery.  These should be used under supervision of your doctor.