Vein pain: What causes painful veins and how to get rid of it

vein painPainful veins are often a symptom emanating from vein walls. Veins found in the human body are responsible for carrying blood devoid of oxygen back to the heart and lungs to become oxygenated and redistributed through the body once again. Some veins are visible beneath the surface of the skin while other are located internally, just out of sight.

Just like pain experienced elsewhere in the body, it’s transmitted via pain receptors, which can be triggered by a number of different things. When vein pain is experienced in deeper veins that are difficult to see, the source is more difficult to identify compared to visible veins.

What causes vein pain?

Varicose veins


A common condition where superficial veins in the lower leg become enlarged, appearing dark purple or blue in color. This is often seen in people who stand for extended periods of time, which increases the pressure within their veins, causing them to gradually dilate to the point where vein valves are incapable of preventing the back flow of blood. Varicose vein risk factors include being female, advanced age, family history, and obesity.

Besides their appearance, varicose veins usually present with an aching feeling in the legs that tends to worsen with long periods of standing or sitting.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Due to a blood clot that forms in the deeper veins of the leg. A DVT is considered a serious condition as the blood clot has the potential to dislodge from the point of vein occlusion (blockage). If this were to occur, the blood clot could travel to the venous system, potentially lodging at another point in the vascular system. The worst case scenario is the clot reaching the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolus.

Symptoms of DVT are leg pain in the calf and swelling of the leg. However, it is possible for DVT to not cause any symptoms at all.


This is when a blood clot that forms in the leg becomes inflamed. This can cause DVT, but when occurring in the more visible veins near the surface of the skin, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. This condition is commonly experienced in people with varicose veins and occurs due to very similar risk factors—prolonged inactivity and sitting.

Commonly known inflammatory symptoms often accompany thrombophlebitis such as redness, swelling, and heat over the affected area. When occurring in deep veins, symptoms similar to DVT can occur.

Venous insufficiency

Impaired blood flow that is commonly found in the legs but could occur anywhere in the body, especially in veins that are furthest away from the heart. The two most common types include varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis. It results in venous blood pooling, leading to vein pain.


An infection of the tissue just underneath the skin that holds the possibility of spreading to blood vessels like the veins. Cellulitis is primarily caused by bacteria that enter the body from an entry point on the skin, like from a cut or wound. The legs are common sites for cellulitis, especially in conditions that promote poor wound healing and impair the immune system (like diabetes).

Cellulitis often presents with redness, swelling, heat, and tenderness over the affected area. As the infection spreads, red streaks may appear as the veins and lymphatic vessels become infected.

Related: Collapsed veins: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Symptoms that can accompany painful veins

Painful veins may occur with a number of different conditions, all of which can present with their own unique set of symptoms. However, some common traits can be appreciated in most cases of vein pain, including:

  • Enlarged, visible veins
  • Feeling of heaviness in the legs
  • Hardened tissue under the skin
  • Leg pain and swelling
  • Rash
  • Skin discoloration
  • Throbbing or cramping in the legs

How to treat painful veins?

Increasing activity

The contraction of muscles aids in the movement of blood back to the heart. Particularly when running or jogging, the calf muscles are working hard, which promotes blood flow. This explains why standing still and a sedentary lifestyle aid in the development of varicose veins and vein pain.

Gentle massage

With the use of olive or coconut oil as a lubricant, gentle upward stroking massages can smoothen out the twisted veins and accelerate blood flow. It is important to never use pressure directly on bulging veins, however. Pooling of blood is one major problem that exacerbates varicose veins, leading them to expand and get twisted. Massage is an active way to increase blood flow, helping reduce vein pain.

Dietary support

A deficiency of B-complex vitamins such as B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin) has been known to increase homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is known for damaging the lining of the blood vessels and increasing the risk of thrombosis and varicose veins. Alcohol is also known for increasing homocysteine levels. These vitamins are readily available from the food we eat and can be found in tuna, salmon, shrimp, chicken, turkey, and eggs, just to name a few.


The use of blood thinning drugs can help prevent the formation of blood clots that lead to thrombophlebitis or DVT. They also help to keep existing clots as small as possible, decreasing the patient’s chance of having complications and developing more clots. If these medications are not used in time, and a blood clot has already developed, the use of clot-dissolving medication can help save lives by helping to reopen blocked blood vessels. However, clot dissolving drugs have a limited time frame of use before they become unusable.

Compression stockings

Commonly used to reduce the chances of DVT complication, they are prescription-strength stockings that are specifically designed to reduce pooling of blood in the legs.


Used when the source of vein pain is due to cellulitis caused by bacterial infection. Depending on the extent of the infection and the specific bacterial organism causing it, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic medication required. Treatment typically lasts five to 10 days but can be as long as 14 days.


Can be implemented in serious cases of venous insufficiency. It may require stripping of the damaged vein, insertion of a camera to see and tie off varicose veins (endoscopic surgery), or a vein bypass, where a healthy vein is transplanted from somewhere else in your body.

Some herbal remedies include:

Horse chestnut

An age-old treatment for varicose veins, horse chestnut seeds have been known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling properties. This can successfully increase “venous tone” and reduce the appearance of varicose veins. A compound called aescin, which improves the elastic strength of veins and prevents the release of enzymes that damage capillary walls, can also be found in horse chestnut seeds. This herbal remedy can be used externally on the skin or be consumed in supplement form. It is important to note that raw horse chestnut may be toxic, and it is not recommended, especially in pregnant or nursing women.

Witch hazel

Very effective for strengthening blood vessels and great for reducing the symptoms of varicose veins. It also contains gallic acid and other essential oils that help reduce swelling and pain. Witch hazel can be used by soaking a cloth in the solution and placing it on the affected area. Repeat this two to three times a day for one or two months.

Pot marigold

This aesthetically pleasing flower holds anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation and pain. It is also known for promoting collagen formation in the skin, restoring its natural texture. This herb also has antimicrobial properties and promotes blood circulation. You can boil a cup of marigold flowers in four cups of water for five minutes, then soak a cotton cloth in the solution and place it over the affected area. Repeat this several times a day for a few months to see visible improvement.

Suffering from vein pain can be physically and cosmetically discomforting. Because it has a ton of underlying causes, it is highly recommended to speak to a health care professional to find out of the cause of your specific case. With proper treatment, a successful resolution is possible.



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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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