Understand the feeling of “heavy legs”
Heavy legs appear in the calves and ankles and are particularly noticeable at the end of the day. They are exacerbated by standing, heat and fatigue. They are accompanied by pain, tingling and swelling of the feet and ankles.
Who is affected?
Women are particularly affected (one in three women) but men are not spared! Age is also important: the disorders generally appear around the age of 40, but young people aged 15-25 are increasingly affected. After the age of 60, almost two out of three people suffer from venous disorders.
Heredity and excess weight are predisposing factors. Prolonged standing, a sedentary lifestyle, an unbalanced diet, taking oral contraception, as well as tobacco or alcohol abuse and exposure to heat amplify the phenomenon of heavy legs. Most often, but not always, heaviness is felt in both legs. It is accompanied by dilation of the veins, particularly those of the calf. Generally, this sensation disappears quickly when lying down with the legs raised.
At the level of the lower limbs there is a double venous system ensuring blood return, one deep draining 90% of the blood, the other superficial bringing back only 10%. The heaviness of the legs corresponds to an insufficiency of the superficial venous network. The venous return of blood, from the feet to the heart, is a complex phenomenon that must fight against gravity (especially when we are standing).
Several elements intervene:
– the veins are equipped with “anti-reflux” valves.
– In the “right” heart there is a depression that “sucks” the blood brought back through the veins. . there is a residue of blood pressure in the veins, pushing the blood upwards.
– When walking, the calf muscles act as a pump that pushes the blood upwards.
– With each step we crush our arch of the foot and empty it of the blood it contains, propelling it upwards.
– the arteries that run next to the veins, impart a pulsating movement to them.
Under certain circumstances, such as prolonged standing, one or more of these phenomena is no longer sufficiently active. The blood weighs its full weight in the veins, which dilate and tighten.
Heavy legs are a sign of venous pain. But beware, this symptom is not synonymous with varicose veins or “thrombosis”. This superficial venous insufficiency evolves on its own account, manifesting itself by crises, without systematically transforming itself into varicose veins. Besides, simple means and a little common sense can in the vast majority of cases bring relief and improvement.
What not to do
Do not impede venous circulation by wearing socks or pants that are too tight. Soft, loose fitting clothing is preferable.
– Avoid high heels and flat shoes.
– Beware of heat that dilates the veins: underfloor heating is harmful, as are hot showers or baths.
– Hot water bottles on the legs and the sauna are not recommended.
– Do not wax yourself with too hot a wax.
– Aggressive massages with a horsehair glove on the lower limbs are contraindicated.
– spices, tea, coffee, white wine and champagne are not recommended, especially in case of night cramps.
– constipation should be avoided.
– avoid prolonged standing and trampling on the spot.
– you can sunbathe, but avoid prolonged, immobile exposure to the sun.
It is better to walk in the water, to swim, to have a physical activity on the beach . some sports where trampling, sudden starts and stops are not recommended: fencing, tennis, ping-pong, volleyball, basketball, water skiing, squash… But, it is important to have a physical activity.
What to do
– Walking, cycling, swimming and floor gymnastics are suitable physical activities as they strengthen the lower limbs and promote better venous return.
– Some exercises can be done daily at home:
– lying on your back, make pedalling movements with your legs,
– always on your back, legs stretched out and raised, describe circles with your toes.
– It’s better to walk up the stairs than take the elevator. But you have to climb them by attacking the steps with your heel and not by putting your toes down first.
– being overweight promotes poor circulation.
– during the day, short periods of lying down are beneficial.
– to sleep, it is advisable to raise the feet of the bed by about eight centimetres.
– in the summer, when it is very hot, cool showers on the legs are beneficial.
– Gentle massages in the direction of venous return (from the foot to the root of the thighs) relieve the legs and help the blood to circulate. You can massage yourself with an analgesic ointment . Ask your pharmacist for advice.
– If you have problems with the arch of your foot, consult a chiropodist.
– Support tights (such as support socks) can be used to reinforce prevention. They are particularly indicated in the case of pregnancy or prolonged standing due to professional obligations.
– heavy legs are not a contraindication to oral contraception, but it is nevertheless better to talk to your doctor who will guide you in choosing the contraceptive method best suited to your case.
– Medicinal plants have a soothing effect on leg pain: brittle holly, witch hazel, blueberry, horse chestnut, ginkgo biloba, red vine.
Plants and medicines (which are usually extracts of these plants) and support stockings will be recommended by your doctor or pharmacist.
They can be used during painful flare-ups or for prevention (in predisposed people).