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Why Active People like Runners Get Blood Clots

It does not make sense to many as to why active people like runners and those who participate in marathons can get blood clots. These have been observed prior to these people developing blood clots:

  • they have been immobile for hours- usually during long flights or road journeys- related to lack of circulation
  • they have been dehydrated

The symptoms: This usually happens in the leg and one may feel muscle cramps or swelling that does not improve with rest. An article in Runners World featured an experience of Jenny Hadfield on her experience of getting 2 blood clots in 3 months despite of being very active and participating in marathons. She had described the symptoms and possible causes extensively in her article.

Blood clots are dangerous because it could lead to pulmonary embolism where the clots breaks up and travel to the lungs or heart. It can be fatal.

My take on why blood clots could happen:

Since not known causes have been established- researches are only able to link to behaviourial symptoms….allow me to offer my humble opinion.

I would explain from the perspective of ancient Chinese healing- which is the chi or qi. It is an invisible life force or energy that runs through our body via meridian channels. When these meridian channels are blocked, chi cannot flow smoothly- and chi governs the blood flow as well as a person’s blood stop circulating voluntarily upon death (where there is also no more chi). This causes the stagnation.

We instinctively know that exercise helps to improve our circulation. Moderate exercise can help to reduce discomfort, lower back issues- and those who exercise also find their immune improve, therefore having less sickness and flu. Even if they do, they tend to recover faster. This is because chi and blood move together- and exercise helped to stimulate movement, clearing blocked energies.

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I mentioned moderate– neither too much, nor too little. Inactivity is no good for us. But how about too much exercise?

In ancient Chinese healing, it is mentioned that too much exercise/ physical activity would deplete our vital energy system. Exercising at night where the body energy levels are going down- it would force the body to use up its stored resource to go against its own nature- but many people, due to their busy schedule, can only find time to exercise.

What’s blood clots in the legs got to do with chi/qi?

Even though logically an althete should have excellent circulation, it is illogical that althletes can sufer from poor circulation even after sitting for few hours when other inactive folks can travel in the same flight and yet not have a blood clot.

2 possible reasons:

  • Over-exercise causing depletion of chi. Depletion of chi causes reduction in blood flow. Blood flow can still be stimulated with exercise and movement- but the moment the person remains inactive, and in higher altitude, the depleted chi no longer drives the blood movement and hence the entire area gets stagnated— this can be further be made worst by cause below:
  • meridian blockages that already exist in the person itself. Symptoms of meridian blockages can shown outwardly in the gait and posture of the person. Sometimes due to wrong posture (from occupational hazards, wearing the wrong shoes, injuries), the person’s posture may not be aligned. This may block the meridian channels, making chi movements not so smooth.
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Situation is also made worse via habits that causes imbalances in the qi- drinking cold drinks, bathing right after gym/intensive exercise, eating unhealthy food (processed, fried, too much sugar).

Some chiropractor, physiotherapist and occupational therapist have working knowledge of meridian channels and know how the wrong posture can affect our overall circulation and bring about health problems.

I personally experienced this and that is why I share this point of view. I have been having creaking knee for years- which is one of the early stages of osteoarthritis. This came after years of taking iced milk tea.  There is no known cure but the suggested treatment is to take supplements, exercise and do resistance training. When I perform the leg press exercise using the machine, I can feel my right knee becoming painful- which made me instinctively aware that if I continue to train and train, it would make my knee condition worse instead of better- because the knee is straining without proper circulation and chi flow.

However, if during the leg press using the exercise machine, if I were to press one acupoint on the side of my knee- the pain would just disappear. This is because by pressing and releasing, I had temporary clear a blocked channel.  At the same time I also use cane exercise– that is literally a cane to beat and clear the meridians and wai tan kung exercise to improve my body’s overall chi movement. Combining all these with exercising and strength training, my knees have become stronger.

It is part of an active althlete’s/ runner/ marathoner’s life- to have to constantly train very hard. If yoga, tai chi, or qi gong exercises are being incoporated, it may help with the body’s overall circulation.

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