Today’s busy world makes it tough for the average person to make time to exercise. While staying active is important for a healthy lifestyle, studies show that you can improve the health of your veins and circulation with one simple move: elevate your legs.
Leg elevation is proven to relieve symptoms of varicose veins and leg swelling (lymphedema). Elevating your legs lifted also helps prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis), a common and dangerous blood clot that can travel to the lungs and cause a life-threatening PE (pulmonary embolism).
So, take a load off. If you’re reading this on your mobile device, lie back, elevate your legs, and find out how you’re improving your health by adding leg elevation to your daily routine. If you are in a situation where you cannot elevate your legs make sure to do some calf raises in place or walk in place to stimulate muscular activity to pump the venous blood back towards your heart.
Your Veins Deserve a Break: Why You Should Elevate Your Legs
While sitting and standing occupations, genetics, hormones, and gender all contribute to venous disease, there’s another well-known culprit that contributes to the development of varicose veins and lymphedema: the American sedentary lifestyle. With each passing year, our culture becomes more sedentary and overweight. Coupled with careers that require long periods of immobility and risky fashion choices that harm circulation, more Americans are developing varicose veins, leg swelling, spider veins, and deadly blood clots.
Of course, exercise and compression hose are essential for healthy circulation, especially if you’re already experiencing symptoms of venous disease. However, leg elevation is easy to implement into your lifestyle, and it’s free!
Your Legs Are Tired: Lifestyle Habits Contributing to Venous Disease
You don’t have to be a couch potato to increase your risk for venous disease. Here are the top three reasons why your legs need to be elevated every night to help prevent venous disease or relieve the symptoms of lymphedema (excessive leg swelling) or varicose veins.
Sitting and Standing for Too Long Hurts Circulation
Balance is the key to health and wellness, and that includes the amount of time you spend sitting vs standing. If your job includes a great deal of sitting or standing, it’s important to find ways to adjust your position, stretch your muscles, and encourage healthy circulation.
Sitting for extended stretches causes blood and other fluid to pool in the legs instead of moving back up toward the heart. This may result in varicose veins, swollen ankles, discoloration of the skin, and even dangerous blood clots and skin ulceration.
Standing still for a long period of time comes with its own set of problems. Not only does standing make your leg muscles to tire more quickly, it also increases the risk of developing varicose veins and spider veins.
While standing desks are trending, experts say that it’s really best to embrace a routine that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing while adding in a few minutes to stretch and flex your calves. For instance, use an ergonomically designed sitting desk, but stand up and move around about every 20 minutes. If you’re standing all day, flex your calf muscles periodically to stretch and encourage proper circulation. To counteract the effects of working in a sedentary environment, elevate your legs at the end of each workday.
How Fashion Affects Your Circulation
Tight-fitting clothes like skinny jeans and shaper garments can also cause leg problems if they cord your legs. You may have read news stories about women suffering from leg swelling and nerve compression due to ill-fitting jeans that hugged their calves too tightly.
When you wear a shaper, the garment may compress your thigh’s peripheral nerve. This leads to pain, numbness and tingling in your legs. You may experience these symptoms occasionally or constantly. Shapers can also decrease your circulation, which may cause blood clots, swollen ankles or varicose veins. While we would recommend embracing your shape without a constrictive garment, if you must wear a shaper, be sure to offset the impact of it each day. It helps to elevate your legs at the end of the day and to remove the shaper garment when you get home in the evening. Better yet you should consider the purchase of a medical grade, and professionally fitted compression garment.
If you wear high heels, then you are abusing your legs and veins for the sake of fashion. High heels shift your weight to the balls of your feet and cause the calf muscles to stay contracted. Both effects inhibit your venous circulation by altering the foot and calf pump which normally propel most of the venous blood out of the legs. As a result, if you wear them a lot, you increase your risks of developing spider veins and varicose veins. After a long day in heels, get those heels off and elevate your legs. Remember reducing the number of days and hours in heels in favor fashionable flats may be a healthier choice for you.
Being Overweight or Obese Increases the Risk of Venous Disease
Carrying too much weight is bad for you in so many ways. It can negatively affect your venous circulation creating excess pressure for the venous flow to overcome increasing your risk for developing venous disease. Excess weight is hard on your joints, too. Every pound of weight you gain adds 4 pounds of pressure to your knees. For some people, this results in arthritis in addition to stiffness, pain and joint swelling. Too much weight also increases the pressure that the body’s connecting tissue experiences. For example, tendons may start to have problems. They can become inflamed, which results in tendonitis. In these cases, leg elevation is essential, but even more important is to lose weight.
Leg Elevation Tips
For the leg elevation treatment to be effective, you’ll need to raise your legs above your heart. Lift them three or four times a day, and try to keep them elevated for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Best Practices to Elevate Your Legs Against the Wall
- Lie down on the floor with your buttocks up against the wall.
- Use a pillow under your head to feel more comfortable.
- Elevate your legs and rest them against the wall, keeping your legs straight.
- Be careful not to turn your neck too much to read or play on your mobile device, or you can develop neck pain.
Best Practices to Elevate Your Legs on Pillows or Cushions
- Lie down on your couch, bed, or floor.
- Elevate your legs on a stack of pillows or cushions.
- Keep your feet above your head and heart.
- Once again, be careful about your position so as not to cause back or neck injury.
Don’t elevate your legs on a table or desk without a cushion to prevent the edges and corners from digging into your skin. This can cause leg pain, bruising, spider veins, and nerve damage to the area. It’s also counterproductive, as it hurts circulation to the area due to excessive pressure.
More Quick Tips to Improve Circulation
Stretching and exercise can also help with leg swelling and varicose veins. Make sure you pump your calves regularly throughout the day and consider incorporating a stretching routine such as pilates or yoga. This will help elevate your legs for immediate relief while you stretch and work your muscles for improved long-term circulation. Find ways to add walking into your daily routine, such as during meetings or water and coffee breaks.
Invest in high-quality compression garments to encourage healthy circulation in your legs no matter where you are. These are especially useful if you’re a frequent flyer or work long hours at a desk or on your feet, wear heels, or are overweight. Even better, if you’re already experiencing symptoms of varicose veins, compression hose and other garments are essential to help relieve pain and discomfort.
Ask us about our stylish compression gear, including leggings, hosiery, and socks, included in our new rewards program for compression items to help you save on healthy, fashionable compression items at Vein Specialists of the South.
While You Elevate Your Legs, Schedule an Appointment Today!
While you have your feet up, do something productive about your leg problems. Even in your reclined position, you can contact us for a vein evaluation to determine the best treatments for venous disease and lymphedema for more substantial relief. Either schedule an in-person consultation with our team in Macon or Warner Robins or visit VirtualVein.com for a digital consultation. Be sure to ask us about upcoming Vein Education and Evaluation events in our Downtown Macon practice as well, where you can meet our team, learn about our treatment options, and receive a free evaluation by one of our vein specialists team members.