Varicose veins are visible veins that may look dark purple or blue in color and are commonly found in the legs and feet of those affected. These enlarged and discolored veins may not pose any immediate health concerns, being more of a cosmetic problem—looking unsightly or unattractive. However, some individuals experience aching pain and discomfort that could signal a higher risk for other circulatory problems.
It is thought to be a result of prolonged standing or sitting that increases the pressure in the veins of the lower body, with the effects of gravity mostly to blame. Dysfunction of tiny valves in the blood vessels themselves have also been seen to play a role, resulting in poor circulation. Other risk factors include age, sex, family history, and obesity.
While varicose veins may be difficult to treat, there are simple exercises you can do to help minimize the development of new ones from developing and to alleviate pain from existing ones.
Exercises for varicose veins
This is the simplest exercise you do and is also the most effective. By keeping your legs in constant movement, you help to promote blood circulation and keep blood from pooling in your legs. To get the most out of walking, modify small things in your routine. Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. If you don’t live far from work, try taking public transportation. It will save you gas money and also help prevent varicose vein development.
Taking a cue from riding a bike, pedaling can be also done at home. Start by lying down with your back flat on the ground and hands at your sides. If you feel you need more support you can place your hands under your buttocks to help prevent back overload. Now, elevate your legs off the ground in the air and pedal as if you were on a bike. This will help promote blood circulation.
The muscles in your body also play a role in circulating blood, and by strengthening your leg muscles, you can help prevent the development of varicose veins. Once such exercise is the leg lift. This exercise starts with you lying on the floor with your back supported and your hands under your buttocks. Now, lift one leg at a time and keep it raised and perpendicular to the ground, forming an L shape. Hold this pose until your feel the blood dropping from your feet to your thighs. Repeat on the opposite side. Alternatively, you can raise both legs and rotate your ankles to further improve leg circulation.
Knee and ankle flexing
Start by laying down on your back and bring one knee into your chest. Hold your knees close by placing your hands behind the knee instead of on top of it. While in this position, point and flex your foot several times. Start slowly then progress to a more forceful flexion of the foot. While doing this, tighten the muscles of the calves and the tendons around your ankle. Repeat for the opposite leg.
By laying down on your back, you help to facilitate blood circulation. Lifting your legs up straight into the air, separating them, and bringing them back together will prevent blood from pooling. You could also perform air circles with your legs to really get the blood flowing. Repeat as much as you feel comfortable with.
Since we sit for the majority of our days, seated exercises can be easily done. By simply stretching and bending your legs constantly you will help facilitate blood flow. You can also separate and bring the tips of your feet together, and repeat often to get the best effects.
If you have to stand for prolonged periods of time, it can beneficial to flex legs by standing on your heels. You can also stand on your tip toes and then on your heels.
Exercises to avoid for varicose veins
Running and jogging
While it is a great form exercise, constantly “pounding the pavement” and other high impact exercises may aggravate the swelling of varicose veins. Instead, try jogging in a gentler fashion and on a softer surface to reduce the stress on your joints and lessen the strain on your veins.
Lifting very heavy weights can increase abdominal pressure and subsequently the pressure in your leg veins. It is recommended to perform more repetitions with lighter weights. If you lift heavy weights for prolonged periods of time blood can pool and increase pressure in the veins of your legs, causing vein dilation and damage to the valves.
Yoga poses for varicose veins
Also known as mountain pose, this exercise helps you achieve the right body alignment. It also helps to keep your legs toned while strengthening the knees, thighs, and ankles. To perform this yoga move, stand erect, placing your feet slightly apart with your hands hanging alongside your body. Firm your thigh muscles while keeping your abdomen loose. Feel the energy pass from your feet up to your head as you strengthen the inner arches of your ankles. Look up and breathe while feeling the stretch in your body. Hold this pose for a couple of seconds, then release.
Also known as standing bend forward pose, this exercise helps to improve the circulation of blood throughout the body by giving your legs a good stretch. Start by standing straight and place your hands on your hips. Then bend forward at your hip while exhaling and keeping your legs straight. Come all the way down so your hands are placed on the floor beside your feet. Hold for a few seconds and release.
Also known boat pose, this exercise helps by preventing blood from pooling in your legs by keeping them elevated. It can instantly help relieve pressure on the veins. Start by sitting on your buttocks with your legs elevated and your back at a 45-degree angle. Your body should resemble a ‘V’ formation. Keep your hands off the floor as your balance yourself using your buttocks as a base. While doing this, breathe long and deep.
Also known as legs up the wall, this exercise is extremely relaxing for your legs and help blood circulation. It also helps to relieve the pressure of gravity on your blood vessels. start by sitting across a wall, with your back on the floor and your buttock on the wall itself. Stretch your arm to the sides with palms facing upwards. Now close your eyes and breathe.
Also known as supported shoulder stand, this exercise works extremely well against the development of varicose veins. It essentially involves a full body inversion, helping to negate the effects of gravity. Start by lying down with your back to the ground. Lift your legs up as your support your hips with your palms. Now shift your body weight on the shoulders and lift your upper body while your back remains on the floor. Hold for a few seconds and release.
Also known as fish pose, this exercise works on many systems simultaneously. It stretches the feet and legs, relieving cramps and stress. It also helps promote blood flow throughout the body. Start by lying on your back with your hands tucked underneath your buttocks. Now gently arch your back upward and feel the stretch. Hold for a few seconds, then release.
Also known as wind relieving pose, this exercise helps to circulate stagnant lymph and venous blood. It is also great for relieving cramps and fatigue from the legs. Start by lying flat on the ground on your back. Now fold your knees in towards your head, and use your arms to hug them in close. You head should be off the ground. Hold for a couple of seconds then release.
Also known as gomukhasana, this exercise teaches you how to properly stretch shoulders as well as the arms. Start by sitting up on the floor, and crossing your knees over each other. The bottoms of your feet should be facing behind you. Now use extend your arms behind you and grab on the wrist. Hold for a couple of seconds and then release.