Varicose veins are large, protruding veins that appear on the skin and may have a bluish, purplish colour. These are caused when the valves inside your veins get weak and are unable to stop the blood from flowing back instead of moving all the blood back towards your heart. It can affect many people but is more common in women, elderly folks and during pregnancy. Varicose veins not only cause cosmetic concerns but can also be associated with pains, swelling, heaviness, itching, soreness of the skin and other symptoms.
Our legs experience a lot of weight while walking or standing, this increases the pressure on the veins. Varicose veins are most common on the legs for this reason. Some of the symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Pain, cramps and heaviness in the legs
- Swollen, bulging and/or twisted veins that appear to be pushing the skin
- Darkened bluish, reddish or purplish veins in a web-like or rope-like form
- Itchiness near the veins
- Throbbing or burning sensations
- Pain that worsens when you sit or stand for long periods
When you notice these symptoms, you need to consult with your doctor as soon as you can. Although it may only be a surface level issue, it can also be a serious health problem requiring medical attention. Do not try to diagnose yourself or self-medicate, talk to your doctor and find out what you need to do.
Is exercise good for Varicose Veins?
With the help of your leg muscles, the veins in your legs are able to push the blood up towards the heart. But this is only possible when you are moving around. Hence, physical activity is extremely important for easing varicose vein symptoms, while sitting or standing for long periods can worsen your varicose veins.
Exercises for Varicose Veins
Walking daily has many benefits attached to it for your overall health. Particularly with varicose veins, walking helps to improve your blood circulation while getting a mild workout. Since blood flow is the main reason for varicose veins developing, regular walks can help to reduce your risk of developing them in the first place. Walking may also be useful to help ease the swelling and pain that comes with varicose veins.
Running has many of the same benefits as walking along with improving cardiovascular health. Physical activities like running require your leg muscles to contract and expand. As we mentioned earlier, these leg muscles act as a pump to help your veins move the blood back to your heart. Always use proper walking or running shoes when attempting these exercises and do not stress your body out too hard. If you are older then try walking or jogging, if you are younger you can attempt running. You need to maintain a balance between strengthening your legs and circulation and avoid putting too much pressure on the blood vessels in your legs.
For those who do not have access to a gym or home equipment, you can still strengthen your legs with leg lifts. This involves sitting (on the floor or a chair) or laying down with your back on the floor. Then, you need to lift your legs one at a time with your feet kept straight, away from your body. Raise one leg to the air and then lower it slowly and repeat this with the other leg. You can do this exercise for several minutes.
If you have a bicycle or pedalling machine at home, you can use it to help strengthen your calf muscles. Cycling has all the benefits of running, including better blood circulation and cardiovascular health. If you do not have the above equipment, you can still attempt bicycle leg exercises. Lay down in a comfortable position with your back against the floor, then raise both your legs up. Bend your legs at your knees and then begin to pedal as if you were riding a bicycle. If it is hard to perform this exercise with both legs simultaneously, you can start by using only one leg at a time.
Many people get varicose veins at or starting near the ankles. There are several ankle exercises you can attempt, starting with calf raises.
For standing calf raises, position yourself in front of a wall or strong object that you can place your palms on. With your feet slightly apart, raise your heels till you’re balanced on your toes (use the wall for additional balance support) and hold this position for a few seconds. Slowly lower your heels and repeat this 10-15 times. Once you get the hang of it, you can try to do the same exercise on a raised platform or step, with your heel hanging over the edge.
For those who are unable to perform this exercise or if you want additional physical activity while at work, you can raise your heels when you’re sitting down. This is less strenuous but still helps to strengthen your calves and ankles.
Lastly, you can modify this exercise by rocking your feet from heel to your toes when you are sitting. When you’re comfortable with the motion, try to do this rocking motion in a standing position. Apart from helping with varicose veins, this exercise can also help you with maintaining balance.
Swimming or simply floating around in the water can be highly beneficial for many issues. It is often recommended to people who have joint pains. The buoyancy in water helps to alleviate the pressure and strain that your legs feel constantly during the day. This can drastically cut down on pain and swelling due to varicose veins.
Exercise to avoid with Varicose Veins
While exercising can be very beneficial, you should avoid straining your body and veins in your legs with demanding exercises.
- Avoid Lifting Weights – Lifting weights puts a lot of pressure on your legs and veins, this may cause them to bulge and get worse.
- Avoid Squats and Lunges – Although both can be beneficial for varicose veins, these exercises also put a strain on the walls of your veins. Either reduce or avoid these exercises.
- Avoid Excessive Running – Running can be great for varicose veins but only up to a point, if you run on even surfaces or push your body too hard for too long, you will end up worsening your situation. Use caution and speak with a doctor if you plan to run when you have varicose veins.
Varicose veins can be concerning even if it is just a cosmetic issue, but it can also cause you pains and heaviness. There are several self-care options you can try but permanent treatment is only achieved through surgery. To avoid getting varicose veins in the first place, you can begin doing these exercises as a regular habit. If you do eventually get them, speak with your doctor to find out what exercises are safe for you and which treatment you should opt for.
Q1. Does jogging help with varicose veins?
Yes, jogging strengthens your calf muscles and improves blood circulation. Both of these can contribute to strengthened muscles of the legs.
Q2. Can exercise fix varicose veins?
Exercise can help to cut the risk of varicose veins developing and ease the pain if you already have them. However, exercise alone cannot fix existing varicose veins.
Q3. What are some self-care tips for varicose veins?
The main self-care measures to take include exercise, weight loss, increasing flavonoids in your diet as well as massages and elevating your legs.
Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.