with Dr. Rachel Lys, DPT
Are Your Veins Giving You Pain?
There are many symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that should not be ignored because they can be an indicator of a serious health problem, such as heart attack or stroke. The deep veins in your legs can be the source of pain and swelling so this is a symptom that should be addressed sooner rather than later. However, if you listen to your body there are many signs that can indicate your veins need attention. The signs are listed below:
1.) If you get weak or numb in your arm, leg, or face, it can be a sign of a stroke, especially if it’s on one side of your body.
2.) You could also be having a stroke if you can’t keep your balance, feel dizzy, or have trouble walking.
3.) Get help quickly if you suddenly can’t see well, get a bad headache, feel confused, or have problems speaking or understanding. Don’t wait to see a doctor. Call 911. If you get a clot-buster drug within 4.5 hours of your first symptom, you can lower your risk of long-term disability from stroke.
4.) If your chest feels tight or heavy, and it lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back again, get help. Don’t try to tough it out.
5.) Tenderness in the back of your leg
This can be a symptom of a blood clot in your leg. It’s called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. It can happen after you’ve been sitting for a long time, like on a long plane ride, or if you’re sick and have been in bed a long time.
If it’s a blood clot, you may feel the pain mostly when you stand or walk. You may also notice swelling. The leg is usually red and tender, and it will be larger than the other leg. It’s normal to feel tenderness after exercise. But if you also see redness and feel heat where it’s swollen or painful, call your doctor.
Patients with a newly diagnosed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) should use common sense and listen to their body. Physically, they should only do what they feel comfortable doing. They do not speed up recovery by pushing themselves aggressively through symptoms of pain and swelling. But they also do not make things worse by being active.
For most patients, it is fine to be physically active right after the diagnosis of an acute DVT or PE – walking, doing light household or other light work. However, if somebody has a lot of leg pain from the DVT or shortness of breath from the PE, the person should take it easy. Having a blood clot is a stress to the body and the body needs time to heal and recover. It is appropriate to take time off from work and let the body recover if needed. However, if the DVT or PE was small and the patient feels fine and wants to go back to work, then that is certainly fine, too.
Many patients worry that by being physically active, it will cause a DVT to break off and become a PE. The risk of clot breaking off and forming a PE is mostly present in the first few days, up to approximately 4 weeks, while the clot is still fresh and fragile and not scarred. However, studies have shown that patients who do light activity following a clot are no more likely to develop PE than those who don’t.
Your physician can best address whether or not physical activity is appropriate for you, how much activity is recommended, and how soon you can begin. It appears that being highly active one month after a DVT is not detrimental; it may, actually be beneficial and lead to less symptoms of post-thrombotic syndrome. This can be used as an argument to encourage individuals to return to physical activity relatively soon after a DVT.
No official guidelines exist as to when and how quickly an athlete might return to exercising. Each patient will need an individualized exercise plan. This is where a physical therapist or personal trainer can best aide you in recovery from a DVT.
As always, yours in Healing,
Dr. Rachel Lys, DPT