When it comes to swollen legs, gravity is not your friend. When maintaining a standing or sitting position, your leg veins need to work harder than ever. This is because they need to send blood back to your heart against gravity. Over time, this situation can place chronic strain on your veins. This often leads to damage and the development of vein disease.
When veins become damaged, they can begin to malfunction. As a result, you may experience painful symptoms like leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue. If you are suffering from these issues, you may want to try elevating your legs throughout the day. You may also benefit from sleeping with your legs elevated.
In both cases, proper leg elevation can:
- Provide pain relief
- Relieve pressure on your veins
- Reduce swelling
- Promote better blood flow
- Help prevent varicose and spider veins
- Reduce your risks of dangerous blood clots and venous ulcers
If you have concerns about your vein health, we recommend close monitoring by a vein specialist. At USA Vein Clinics, we specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care of a range of venous issues. These include varicose veins and spider veins.
What Causes Leg Pain and Swelling?
There are many potential causes for leg pain and swelling, including injury, infection, and disease. One common culprit is vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency. You may be surprised to learn that a large percentage of our population is impacted by this condition. In fact, a recent study indicated that 1-17% of men and 1-40% of women may experience chronic venous insufficiency.
Vein disease develops when the circulatory system doesn’t function properly. Your arteries are responsible for carrying blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body, including the lower extremities (legs, ankles, and feet). Afterward, your veins carry blood back to the heart for reoxygenation.
In healthy veins, your blood always flows in one direction: back to the heart. When vein disease develops, tiny, one-way valves in your veins are unable to efficiently circulate blood against gravity. This can cause blood to flow backward or pool in place. Most commonly, the lower extremities are affected since they are furthest from the heart. When blood begins to pool, you may develop varicose veins, spider veins, and other vein problems.
Both genetics and lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of vein disease. You may be at increased risk if you are:
- Over age 50
- A woman
- A smoker
- Have high blood pressure
- Employed in a job that requires prolonged standing or sitting
Along with causing pain and discomfort, vein disease can also place you at increased risk for developing a number of dangerous health conditions. These may include blood clots and venous ulcers (open, non-healing sores). One serious type of blood clot, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), is considered a life-threatening medical emergency.
Fortunately, effective treatment can alleviate your symptoms and reduce your risk of developing complications.
How Should I Elevate My Legs?
There are several easy ways to elevate your legs and relieve your vein pain and swelling. We recommend the following methods:
- Lie flat on your back on a bed. Place several pillows lengthwise under your feet and legs.
- Lie flat on your back on the floor. Place several pillows lengthwise under your feet and legs.
- Lie flat on your back on the floor. Prop your feet and lower legs up on a sofa or chair.
- From a sitting position, place your feet and legs on a nearby chair or footstool. Add pillows if needed for greater elevation.
How Long Should You Elevate Your Feet and Legs?
No matter which of the above options you choose, it is important to maintain your position long enough to stimulate improved blood flow in the legs. We suggest keeping your legs above the heart for at least 20 minutes each session, two or more times per day.
Some patients ask, can you elevate your legs too much? Although you may be tempted to keep your legs propped up all day long, there’s one major problem with this: prolonged standing or sitting should be avoided. Getting enough physical activity each day is important for your vein health. Exercise can promote better blood circulation, alleviate painful symptoms, and help you avoid additional health issues.
We recommend aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, five days per week. This will benefit not only your veins, but also your heart, lungs, and overall health. If you are currently inactive, be sure to discuss your plans with your doctor before getting started.
What Else Can I Do to Improve My Vein Health?
Along with elevating legs and exercising regularly, we suggest the following to help improve your vein health:
- Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Eat a well-rounded diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products
- Limit sodium, added sugars, saturated fats, alcohol, and caffeine
- Quit smoking
- Avoid prolonged periods of standing or sitting
- Wear compression socks
If you need additional resources to help make recommended changes, talk to your doctor. For instance, they can refer you to a medical weight loss or smoking cessation program.
While we always encourage healthy lifestyle modifications, we also want you to understand that they aren’t always enough to prevent vein disease. This is because additional factors like genetics, aging, gender, and pregnancy can contribute to its development.
At USA Vein Clinics, our vein specialists offer a range of convenient, outpatient vein treatments that can help you regain control of your life.
Minimally Invasive Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics
When it comes to performing non-surgical vein treatment, our vein specialists are highly skilled and experienced. When you choose to visit one of our 90 USA Vein Clinics locations, you will receive personalized recommendations from one of our experts.
All of our effective treatments are performed in-office and take less than an hour from start to finish. They work by closing off malfunctioning veins and rerouting blood flow to healthy, surrounding ones. In some cases, multiple treatments are required to resolve more severe symptoms.
Your vein specialist may suggest one or more of the following procedures:
- Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)
- Varithena Vein Treatment
- Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy (UGSC)
- VenaSeal™ Treatment
Although elevating the legs may help to temporarily relieve your symptoms, only vein treatment can address the root cause. To learn more about how vein treatment can change your life, schedule an initial consultation today. For your convenience, we also offer telemedicine appointments.