Whether you’re standing on your feet all day, or you’re sitting in your office or you’ve simply chosen the wrong shoes that are not comfortable at all, either way you have to take care of your legs so you do not experience long-term problems. It is estimated that as much as 60 to 70 percent of the world population suffers from a problem that manifests itself with tired and aching legs.
Painful, swollen and tired legs
Legs suffer extremely when they are exposed to high summer heat, and even cold weather does not bring less risk factors. Feeling heavy and painful legs was once “reserved” for the elderly. However, lifestyle, fashion trends (inadequate shoes) and the type of work one does every day (sitting for hours) adversely affect the circulation and subsequent circulation, which contribute to the appearance of initial leg problems with increasingly younger population.
The problem is further exacerbated by increased body weight, different deformations of the arch of the foot (flat feet), some conditions (pregnancy, for example), oral contraceptives, old age and others.
Both men and women are affected by this sort of discomfort, and the incidence increases with age. According to some estimates, as many as seven out of ten women who complain of aching and heavy legs, talk about the problems that significantly reduce their quality of life.
Poor circulation as the primary cause of tired legs
Heavy and painful legs after a long time spent in a standing or sitting position are caused by poor circulation in the legs. What is actually happening? The heart works in a way that it forces blood to all parts of the body, and it returns through the veins back to the heart. Given the fact that the heart, compared to the feet, is at a higher level, it flows through the veins moving against the force of gravity, to get to the heart. While in motion, muscle contraction in the legs act as a pump, applying pressure to the vein walls and pushing blood to the heart. In other words, the more you move, the harder you push it back to the heart.
During extended inactivity, such as prolonged standing or sitting in the same position, the leg muscles are contracted insufficiently and exert less pressure on the vein walls, making it difficult for venous blood to return to the heart and this causes the accumulation of blood in the legs, which leads to the sensation of heavy and painful legs. If this condition lasts longer, it may be followed by more permanent changes to the inner wall of the vein and the weakening of the venous valve. If the changes are not treated in time, soon, serious leg illnesses, usually venous disorders can be developed.
Mini treatments for immediate relief
In case that the cause of heavy and painful legs is relatively harmless, there is a very effective mini treatment that can bring immediate relief: have a cold shower and then gently massaged in a gel with a cooling effect (preferably one that contains menthol) with gentle movements from the bottom up. It will additionally help if the gel contains essential oils that stimulate circulation, remove tension and pain in muscles and contribute to the sensation of freshness. After that, it will be incredibly easy to “go through” your working day, and your feet will be in the “fittest” shape.
People that are likely to develop leg cramps have to practice their feet by stretching them during the day, thus achieving relaxation of muscle fibers and preventing the occurrence of cramps. Those who suffer from these problems know that the first aid is to stretch the area affected by the cramp. When spasm appears in the lower leg, you should extend the leg in a sitting position and vigorously, with both hands, pull the front part of the foot towards the upper body.
If your job is predominantly sedentary and you do not have the possibility of re-applying the gel during the day, try to start the bloodstream by simple exercises: lift your feet gently off the floor and circle them in both sides; after that stretch them at least ten times.
If, however, your job requires long standing, very simple and effective exercises can help you: approximately once per hour stand on your tiptoes, and then slowly go back to feet. Repeat this exercise ten times.
However, fast treatments and simple exercises will only help you in the short term. To improve the health of legs on the long run, it is necessary to reduce poor living habits, systematically modify all of those bad habits that we might not even be aware of. In the beginning, it will probably not be easy, nevertheless, with persistence, a lot of them can be changed.
In order to help you, at least in the beginning, follow a couple of these simple steps.
- Choose your footwear with special attention, certainly respecting the demands of your job
- Ideal heel height for women is between three and five inches (such as footwear worn by flight attendants)
- If you have a problem with “flat feet”, wear appropriate orthopedic insoles
- Walk whenever you get a chance, use stairs instead of elevators
- Avoid sitting cross-legged
- Wear comfortable clothing that does not constrain waist and legs
- Whenever you can, rest your feet by putting them in the raised position
- Lift the foot of beds where you sleep for about ten centimeters
- During a long drive in the car, stop every two hours and stretch your legs
- If you have problems with veins, avoid staying in the sauna or Jacuzzis
- Avoid strong spices and very salty food (salt promotes water retention in the body)
- Maintain your ideal body weight (each kilo of excess further burdens your feet)
- Suitable sports are running, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, and dancing also has a beneficial effect
- Massage your legs slightly, from the bottom up
- During summer, avoid prolonged exposure of your legs to sunlight and, on the beach, walk along shallow waters
- Wash feet with cool water
Heavy, painful and swollen legs, in addition to being the symptoms most often associated with venous leg disease, can also be accompanying symptoms of various other diseases such as chronic heart failure, kidney disease, lack of lymphatic drainage (lymphedema), inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue in the foot (erysipelas, cellulitis) or a result of taking certain medications.
Regardless of whether the heavy and painful legs are a symptom of some primary or secondary process, it is necessary to detect the cause in time, and the treatment should definitely be determined by your physician.