Top Tips to Elevate Legs and Mistakes to Avoid
Frequent guidance tells us to elevate a body part that is sore or painful to help reduce any swellings and ease some of the pain. This is especially true of leg pain. However, along with helping reduce soreness and help heal from an injury, elevating our legs can also be a preventative measure and help prevent injuries or other issues.
There are certain times when you absolutely should elevate your legs and a few mistakes to avoid to ensure it is now counterproductive. Knowing when to elevate your legs, and why it works, will help avoid some common mistakes.
Why Elevate a Limb?
Your heart is the primary mechanism to circulate blood throughout your body. It has to pump harder, generating more force, to transport blood to your limbs. Especially during stagnant times, gravity affects blood flow more and may cause it to pool in the extremities lower than the heart and not circulate through our body as it should.
How it Works
Elevating a limb, especially the legs, above the heart allows the blood to circulate back to the heart without fighting gravity. The heart still pumps blood to these extremities, but the stress on the heart is reduced. This helps to mitigate swelling and brings fresh and oxygenated blood to the limbs.
Potential Issues From Not Elevating Legs
While the daily movements with our legs help to pump blood back to the heart, there are potential issues that can arise without additional preventative care. If the legs are below the heart and the leg muscles are idle for an extended period of time, the heart will continue to pump blood to the legs faster than the blood is returned.
This can cause several issues, such as leg swelling and edema. It can also increase the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and potentially deadly blood clots.
One of the first indications that you should begin regularly elevating your legs is the appearance of varicose and spider veins around your calves and discoloration of the skin. These conditions are caused by the blood being forced into the smaller veins and capillaries and exceeding their capacity. Once there, the body uses the oxygen in the blood (turning it dark or purple) and forces the veins to expand.
How To Elevate Your Legs
Raising your legs above your heart, in any matter, will provide some benefit. However, it’s not as simple as putting your feet up on an ottoman or a table.
Build Elevation Into Your Routine
Each time you elevate your legs will be beneficial to your health. However, without frequent elevation, these benefits will only be temporary. Each time you elevate your legs, especially if part of a routine, builds upon the time before and continues to provide the benefits you are looking for.
When elevating your legs it may help to make it a dedicated effort and not simply put your legs up on a table or sofa. The higher above your heart you can get your legs, the more benefit you will get from the movement.
One very effective position is laying on your back with your legs straight up against a wall. The wall will help support your legs by giving your muscles a break and quickly help the stagnant blood return to your core. Remember to keep a slight bend in your knee to keep your joints from pinching your veins and arteries.
It does not take a lot of effort to elevate your legs to get the benefit and prevention you need. You will get some benefit from any elevation. However, some common mistakes may reduce the effectiveness or even cause additional pain.
Raising Your Thighs But Not Your Calves
The goal of elevating the legs is to allow gravity to help pull stagnant blood from your lower legs and feet back to your core and heart. The best way to do this is to consider the route blood has to travel - from your ankle to your heart. There is a portion of the route where blood must go uphill.
If your knees are bent and your ankles are below them, for example, the benefits gained from the elevation will be limited to the knee and above.
Having Too Much/Too Little Bend In The Knee
While you want to make sure your ankles are above your knee, keeping your legs straight may prevent blood from returning from your calves and ankles. Your knee, one of the most robust joints in your body, has very little space for your veins and arteries.
Depending on the specific anatomy of your knee, straightening it can cut off the pathway for your blood to flow. Also, the straightening of the joint may put added pressure on the nerves in the area and stretch surrounding tendons and ligaments.
On the other hand, a knee that is too bent creates a severe angle that can also cut off the blood’s pathway.
Not Changing Daily Habits
If done correctly, elevating your legs can provide relief to sore or painful legs and help prevent several cardiovascular issues. However, even if done routinely, the soreness and pain, and the cardiovascular risks will likely return if your daily habits are causing them to begin in the first place.
Along with elevating your legs, work in a time each day where you take a walk or purposefully flex your calves to help circulate the blood. This will only add to the benefits of elevating your legs and help you lead a healthy life with less pain and soreness in your legs.
Improving circulation to lower legs
Improving circulation to the lower legs is crucial for maintaining overall leg health and preventing various conditions such as swelling, pain, and cramps. There are several effective ways to enhance blood flow to the lower extremities. Regular physical activity, such as walking or cycling, can stimulate blood circulation and strengthen the muscles that assist in pumping blood back to the heart.
Elevating the legs above the heart level periodically throughout the day can also help promote blood flow and reduce fluid buildup. Wearing compression stockings can provide gentle pressure on the legs, aiding in venous return and preventing blood pooling.
Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet low in sodium and rich in nutrients like potassium and magnesium can contribute to optimal blood circulation. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable strategies for improving circulation and ensuring the well-being of your lower legs.
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