Maybe Covid sent you home to work? Or, maybe you were home-based long before Covid was here?
Either way, if your home-based job involves a lot of time spent sitting (sedentary), your health may be at risk if you don’t find ways to close those exercise rings, get in your steps, or well…just get moving!
When working from home, sometimes we just don’t realize how little we’re moving our bodies or how detrimental that lack of movement can be to our health.
Sitting at a desk or computer all day, everyday, for weeks (and months, and years) on end can increase your risk of developing varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis in your legs.
And, in the case of these conditions, blood clots that form can travel to your lungs, where you could lose your life due to a pulmonary embolism.
So, how can you avoid this?
Let’s find out…
If your at-home job keeps you strapped to a desk or computer, or just keeps you immobile for most of the day, this means that you are greatly lacking in opportunities for physical activity.
When you go long periods of time without moving your body, especially if you don’t incorporate some type of exercise throughout the day, your blood circulation suffers.
After lengthy periods of time spent sitting, your circulation slows and blood cells can clump together, forming a clot.
This can happen in the lower legs deep within a vein, referred to as deep vein thrombosis. Or, it can happen in a vein much closer to the skin, known as superficial thrombophlebitis.
Especially in the case of deep vein thrombosis, the danger arises when a clot breaks free from that clump of cells and migrates to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.
Superficial thrombophlebitis typically isn’t life threatening, but it can still cause pain or discomfort.
And, another condition that can occur when you spend long periods of time sitting down is varicose veins.
While many think these veins are merely cosmetic, this simply isn’t true.
Varicose veins are generally close to the skin, and they appear as swollen and bumpy or bulging veins of the legs and feet.
While varicose veins can form from prolonged periods of time spent sitting, once you have varicose veins, leading a sedentary lifestyle is even more dangerous, as tiny clots known as thrombophlebitis are likely to develop which can also travel to your lungs, becoming deadly.
So, how do you know if you are developing varicose veins, superficial thrombophlebitis, or deep vein thrombosis?
If you spend a great deal of time sitting down throughout the day, without many opportunities to stretch, go for a walk, or even exercise, you should regularly examine yourself for signs of vein damage.
Here’s what you can look out for:
Varicose veins are actually pretty common, affecting 1 in 3 adults.
This condition is generally visible, resulting in swollen or discolored blood vessels visible through the skin, caused by increased blood pressure in the veins.
And, while these can often be asymptomatic, varicose veins can also cause an achy or heavy feeling in your legs.
You may also experience pain that gets worse when you’re sitting (or standing) for long periods of time.
In the lower leg, one may experience muscle cramps, swelling, or a burning/throbbing feeling.
And, some people report these veins feeling itchy at times.
How can these be deadly?
If the affected vein happens to be deeper under the skin, this increases the potential for a blood clot to break off from the mini clots that occur in varicose veins and travel to your lungs, becoming fatal.
In cases where a blood clot develops just beneath the surface of the skin, redness and inflammation along the line(s) of the vein may occur.
This affects more females than males, and while it generally occurs in the legs, it has been known to occur in the arms and neck as well.
With superficial thrombophlebitis, you may also feel pain in the affected limb and warmth around the skin or tissue near the vein.
With added pressure, the pain or tenderness generally will worsen.
Other symptoms include a hardening of the vein or even darkening of the skin above or near the vein.
While this condition usually isn’t fatal, it is important to note your symptoms, and if they worsen or you develop new symptoms, contact your doctor.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
In most cases, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs in the calves, but it can happen anywhere in the legs.
Generally, the first noticeable symptom is pain or swelling in the leg, ankle, or foot.
But, you may also experience warmth in the skin near the affected area or even discoloration.
As the danger factor increases when clots form in veins deeper within the leg, if you experience any of these symptoms or suspect you may have DVT, call your doctor immediately.
Tips To Avoid Varicose Veins, Superficial Thrombophlebitis, And Deep Vein Thrombosis
If you work from home, spending most of your day sitting, you may be concerned upon reading the above information.
Thankfully there are some tips to keep your body healthy and safe while working at home, avoiding blood clots!
To keep your veins healthy, and potentially avoid other pains often incurred through a sedentary lifestyle, try the following:
If you’re able to, take phone calls on a headset. This will give you the freedom to get up and move around your home while on a call, improving circulation and avoiding blood restriction.
Wear compression socks throughout the day to help improve leg circulation. (A strength of 20-30 mmHg is recommended.)
The calculated pressure placed on the veins in your legs and feet with compression socks actually works to increase blood flow, lowering your risk of DVT.
When you’re stuck in the zone, hard at work, you may find that time flies and before you know it, it’s been hours since you’ve even stood up, let alone walked around the room.
Set an alarm on your watch, phone, or timer to remind you to get up periodically throughout the day and move.
Moving around the room at least once an hour is recommended.
4- Calf Exercises
While you’re at your desk, plan to pump your calves by placing your feet on the floor, then lift your heels up while keeping your toes planted on the floor.
Repeat this to ‘pump’ your calves and increase the blood flow throughout the area.
5- After Work Sweat Session
After a long day of sitting at a desk or in front of a computer, be sure to get in some exercise.
From stretching to a brisk walk, from a bike ride to a gym session, do something to increase blood flow.
6- Screen Height
Did you know that adjusting the height of your computer screen to an appropriate level can prevent blood clots?
Yes! Keeping your computer screen at the right height can facilitate proper posture which alleviates pressure on the veins running through your spine and on to the rest of your body.
The height of your computer screen should be set so that you can face it head on.
If you have to look up, down, or twist to one side to see your screen, keep adjusting.
7- Use Your Chair Back
The backing on your chair can be a life-saver!
Like with screen height, you can use the back of your chair to facilitate proper, vein saving, posture.
Avoid hunching or even sitting up too straight, which will put unneeded, blood-restricting pressure on your spine.
Instead, lean into the back of your chair to support the natural curve of your spine, evenly distributing weight in your chair and removing pressure from your feet and lower legs.
8- Don’t Dangle
If your feet don’t naturally touch the floor when you’re sitting at your desk, do whatever you need to do to place them flat on the ground…even if that ground is made up of a stack of books.
If your feet dangle, your blood circulation is essentially cut off at your thighs, leaving your lower legs lacking when it comes to blood flow.
And, obviously, this is a recipe for blood clot disaster (especially DVT).
9- Standing Too
We’ve been primarily speaking of the woes of sitting all day long. But, standing all day, especially in one place, can have damaging effects as well.
When you’re on your feet for hours at a time, even at a standing desk, this puts a great deal of pressure on your feet, increasing your risk of varicose veins.
What’s worse, you can also put pressure on your entire circulatory system when standing for prolonged periods of time, which can even negatively affect your arteries and thus the health of your heart.
If you’re sitting all day, be sure to stay hydrated.
Hydration not only improves blood flow, but, let’s just be blunt here, if you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day, you’ll also ensure the fact that you’ll be getting up and moving around to use the restroom.
11- Lower Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can lead to dehydration.
So, if you’re noticing that your night’s spent out with friends having a brew or your long hot bath in the evening accompanied by a glass or two of wine is leaving you less than hydrated the next day, remember the above tip about hydration.
Either compensate for your greater need for some high quality H2O to get your blood flowing, or skip the alcohol when you know you’ll be spending your day strapped to a desk chair.
12- Ditch The Cigs
Smoking increases the risk of blood clots. So, if you’re working from home, sitting throughout most of your day, and lighting up on top of that, you are greatly increasing your risk of a deadly blood clot.
13- Healthy Weight
If you are overweight, your risk of developing a blood clot increases.
Then, as in the case of smoking, if you are leading a sedentary lifestyle on top of that, you’re simply increasing your risk of a deadly blood clot.
Be wary of medicines that increase your risk of developing blood clots if your job keeps you immobile for long periods of time.