Blood Clots and Bed Rest

Bed rest may be medically recommended for individuals for a variety of reasons; pregnancy, post-surgical recovery, illness, or injury, even partial or complete paralysis. So if it’s required, how do you go about reducing the risk of blood clots?

Blood clots often form due to immobility or inactivity. The primary cause of this type of blood clot is pooling of the blood in the lower extremities, though blood clots can also occur in the pelvic region (most common for pregnancy scenarios) and the upper body and arms.

Nevertheless, even small movements are beneficial in reducing the risk of a blood clot developing. At the other end of the spectrum, what if you already have a blood clot? Won’t movement increase the risk of it breaking off and traveling through the body, perhaps leading to a heart attack or stroke?

Dealing with blood clots with bed rest scenarios

A primary concern of healthcare professionals in a post-surgical or injury scenario is the risk of blood clot development. Blood clotting is a natural process of the body – a necessary one – but sometimes, blood clots break free of vessel walls in the lower legs or thigh (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) and travel through the arteries, potentially clogging vessels that supply the lung (a pulmonary embolism or PE), the heart (heart attack), or the brain (stroke). Each poses serious risk.

Common approaches to treating blood clots is treatment with anticoagulant medications coupled with bed rest. Some medical research encourages gentle movement or ambulation in an effort to keep blood moving and prevent pooling.

Early ambulation or encouragement of movement even in bed rest scenarios may also improve healing rates, reduce pain, and prevent muscular atrophy or decline. In a number of studies researching this issue, it was determined that a person who moves or ambulates early on not only improves mental and emotional quality for that patient, but provides additional benefits as well. Such benefits include enhanced lung function (reducing risk of development of congestion or pneumonia), neurological stimulation, and of course, cardiovascular function.

Proceed with caution

Discuss your condition or post-surgical or injury treatment plan with your doctor before you take it upon yourself to ambulate (or not) following a DVT or surgical procedure. Every case is different.

Never self-diagnose. Always follow your discharge instructions regarding exercise as well as weight bearing limits.

Over and above that, if you’re on best rest, stay hydrated, which will also help prevent the blood from thickening and pooling. Discuss with your doctor ways in which you can move or exercise so that you keep your circulation going and help reduce your risk of developing a blood clot.

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