If there’s something our society is good at, it’s sitting on our asses. We sit at our desks, on the couch, on planes, on trains and, especially if you live in Southern California, in our automobiles. California’s average commute time is 10 percent higher than the nation’s as a whole. According to a 2006 study by the Public Policy Institute of California, the typical commute for a California worker is 27 minutes—one way. Furthermore, 18 percent of all workers commuted at least 45 minutes or longer. Aside from the fact that hours spent in the car can lead to ballooning bellies (no time to exercise, but that In-N-Out drive-thru sure looks good), constantly sitting in one position can also contribute to neck and back pain, as well as leg problems, including Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT). Deep what? Don’t you fret—the Weekly can fill you in on what the heck DVT is, and how best to avoid it.
Every day your heart has to pump blood against gravity in order to circulate it up through the veins of the legs, but it normally gets help from the natural contractions of your muscles around your veins that occur when you walk or move. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, DVT is a condition where there is a blood clot in a deep vein (a vein that accompanies an artery), usually in the lower leg or thigh. The clot can then interfere with circulation, or, in the worst-case scenario, it can break off and travel through the blood stream to the brain, lungs, heart or other area, causing severe damage to that organ and possibly death. DVT is most common in adults over age 60, but it can happen to anyone. Symptoms include having leg pain, tenderness, swelling, or increased warmth and redness, in one leg only. If you start experiencing any of these symptoms, you should absolutely call your doctor. But why not try to avoid the trouble altogether?
There are a number of risk factors for DVT, but one is prolonged sitting. The best form of prevention is taking frequent breaks to stand and walk, at least once an hour. Move about and do some squats, leg-lifts and calf-raises. It’s usually pretty easy to do this at work, in a plane, on long car trips, etc., but is a lot more difficult when you’re stuck in gridlock during your commute. Safe driving and focus are of the utmost importance when you’re in your car, but you could try doing something simple like rotating your ankles one at a time, flexing your calf muscles, squeezing your thighs together or stretching your lower back by tilting your pelvis forward and leaning backward. When you finally are able to get out of the car, make sure you walk around a little and stretch, or try doing a few jumping jacks, lunges, knee raises or kicks.
If your particular commute or job simply doesn’t allow for a whole lot of movement, you could also look into graduated support hosiery—special microfiber socks designed to support your veins and prevent blood from pooling in the legs, thus improving circulation and reducing clot risk.
And although many SoCal residents don’t really have a choice, you could also consider getting a new job closer to where you live—it’s better for your pocketbook, your waistline, the environment and your legs!