Noticing varicose veins in the mirror can be upsetting for some. While they aren’t exactly the most welcome companion, there’s often a way to deal with them so you can feel more confident. But what are varicose veins and how can you manage them?
Varicose veins are veins that are swollen and enlarged. They’re most commonly seen in the legs and feet and are usually dark blue or purple in colour, with a bumpy or bulging appearance. Often, they don’t do any harm other than being an unwelcome physical appearance.
However, if you start to notice that your legs feel heavy and uncomfortable, then varicose veins could be the culprit. Other common symptoms include swollen feet and ankles, muscle cramps, dry skin around the veins, and throbbing in the legs.
Depending on the symptoms and discomfort levels, varicose veins don’t always require treatment. What’s more, there’s a range of easy ways to manage them at home. Below, I’ve outlined seven great techniques and tips for managing varicose veins that you can try today.
One of the main causes of varicose veins is the inability of the valves to keep the blood flowing in one direction. My first varicose veins management tip – compression stockings. They are designed to tackle this problem.
A popular option amongst athletes, compression stockings are designed to stimulate blood circulation. They’re essentially tight-fitting socks and will apply slight pressure to your legs that will help to improve blood flow.
These have been shown to be great counters to varicose veins. In fact, a 2018 study found that the usage of knee-high compression stockings for one week resulted in a significant reduction in pain and aching in the legs. They are also great if your legs tend to swell over the course of the day.
Compression stockings are relatively inexpensive and can be bought from most pharmacies or online stores. They can be really discreet too, with skin colour options available, as well as a range of different shades and designs.
One of the best ways to manage varicose veins is through regular exercise. This may feel painful at first, but stick with it, because regular activities can really help in the long run. Similarly to compression stockings, exercise helps to stimulate blood flow and stop build-up in the veins.
Start with some gentle warm-ups and stretches to strengthen the muscles in your legs, as these can start to simulate circulation. Moving onto gentle physical activities like walking or yoga is a good next step.
Once you feel more comfortable, more aerobic-driven activities such as cycling, swimming, and running are great options.
In fact, since swimming puts you in a horizontal position, this means that your legs are at the same level as your heart. As a result, blood flow tends to increase, in turn helping to tackle the varicose veins.
I’d recommend trying to have a regular schedule for this so that these exercises are something that become part of your daily routine. It’s worth discussing this in more detail with your doctor though, as they’ll be able to provide you with more specific suggestions to fit your individual situation.
It’s also important to note that strenuous physical activity may not be recommended if you’ve already undergone a treatment such as laser treatment for varicose veins. If this is the case, consult with your doctor who’ll be able to give you some advice on what could work for you.
One of the most important things you can do to manage varicose veins is to ensure that you’re moving regularly. Sitting still for prolonged periods will limit the blood flow in your legs and may cause blood pooling.
This is especially important if you have a family history of varicose veins, as this may make you more susceptible to developing the condition.
This movement doesn’t have to be strenuous aerobic exercise every hour though! Simply standing up and walking around the house or the office can be enough to get the circulation flowing sufficiently again.
Try setting timers yourself – at least every hour – on your phone or computer that remind you to stand up and stretch your legs. This will help to get you into the habit of regular movement, thus avoiding those long periods of prolonged sitting.
Put Your Feet Up
An easy way to manage varicose veins and ease blood flow is to keep your legs elevated and put your feet up. Feet elevation – ideally at the same level as your heart – can help to generate circulation through both your feet and your legs.
Keeping your legs raised can help to ease any pain, achiness, or swelling caused by varicose veins. This is especially important if you’re someone who spends a lot of the day sitting down at work.
Getting into the habit of putting your feet up when you get home for the day can really help to tackle varicose veins.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight and Diet
When managing varicose veins, it’s really important to try and keep your weight and diet healthy. Being overweight can put added pressure on the veins in your legs which can restrict the blood flow.
Although losing a bit of weight won’t completely get rid of varicose veins, it can help to ease the pressure on them and reduce any pain, swelling, or achiness.
When it comes to dietary changes, try to avoid salty and sodium-rich foods as much as you can. A high intake of salt can lead to increased water retention which in turn puts extra pressure and weight on the veins.
To bring down water retention levels, you can increase your intake of foods that contain high levels of potassium. Some great options include almonds, lentils, potatoes, salmon, tuna, and white beans.
Ditch the High Heels
Another lifestyle adjustment that can really help in the battle against varicose veins is making sure that you always wear good quality, flat shoes.
High heels have been shown to contribute towards the development of varicose veins and so ditching these can help to stop the problem before it starts. If you’re already suffering from varicose veins, then wearing high heels can worsen the situation.
I would suggest trying out flat shoes that offer good cushioning for the arch of your foot, as well as good support for your ankles. Wearing these proper shoes everyday will help to ease the pressure on your veins and increase the circulation.
Go for a Massage
Going for a relaxing massage can actually help to manage varicose veins. Having someone gently massage your legs can help to re-distribute the blood and increase circulation. However, there are some really important points to bear in mind here.
When massaging legs with varicose veins, it’s vital not to press too hard or directly on the veins themselves as this can damage fragile tissues.
If this is an option that you’d like to try, I’d recommend first speaking to your doctor who may be able to recommend a trained specialist for you. This will help to ensure that your massage is carried out safely and reduce the risk of damaging any fragile tissues.
Are you suffering from varicose veins? When did the problem start? How are you managing it? What are you doing to alleviate the pain and discomfort? Please share with all of our community!