After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we have a chance to think about doing things differently in the new year. We’re used to hearing about how tough it can be to stick to New Year’s resolutions, but according to research by Dr. John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton, around 46% of people who have made resolutions are still on track after six months. The key to success is having achievable goals and making a plan.
Some of the top resolutions are to lose weight, eat better, and exercise more. These are all worthy goals, but often there are underlying issues preventing us from following through. Are you experiencing chronic discomfort anywhere in your body? What about in your legs? If you are experiencing swelling, pain, or fatigue in your legs, you may not feel much like exercising. This will make it harder to implement other healthy changes.
As Dr. Norcross suggests, it’s easier to accomplish our goals if we have a plan. What follows are some approaches to alleviating leg pain that can help get you back on your feet and working toward those bigger resolutions.
Start by wearing compression stockings, which will support the veins and make it easier for them to return blood to the heart. Vein issues develop when vein walls stretch and blood pools in the legs. This can result from many factors including genetics, pregnancy, and work that requires one to sit or stand for long periods of time. You don’t need a prescription to begin wearing compression stockings, though we do recommend first speaking to a personal physician or vein specialist to discuss your unique situation. The stockings can be purchased from pharmacies, sports equipment stores (even athletes wear compression stockings!), or online, and come in all kinds of colors and styles. A starting pressure to try is 12 to 18 mmHg. Many people find that the stockings improve their symptoms so much that further treatment is not necessary. However, if the stockings do not provide you with sufficient relief, then there are other options.
Other non-invasive approaches for improving the health of your legs include maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or less, and regularly elevating the legs above the heart for periods of 20 minutes or more. Calf-pump muscle exercises – designed to improve muscle strength and ankle flexibility – can also be effective. To see what these exercises look like, check out the YouTube video by Dr. Lewis Sellers titled “Build Calf Strength for Better Vein Health, Calf Exercises.” These exercises strengthen the muscles in the legs and help the veins get the blood back up to the heart.
It is possible that the ailments in your legs may actually be symptoms of venous disease. Spider or varicose veins can be another indication that this is the root issue. It’s important to understand that the interventions outlined above can help slow the progression of venous disease and alleviate symptoms, but they can’t completely reverse or cure the problem. If after trying the compression stockings and other non-invasive approaches your legs are still not feeling better, consider visiting a vein specialist to explore other options.
Today’s vein treatments are well-tolerated and minimally-invasive, with very short recovery times. Depending on your situation, the best solution may be endovenous laser ablation. This is a gentle way to correct problem veins that, if left untreated, can cause more serious complications later on. If your doctor prescribes this treatment, rest assured that the procedure is straightforward and well-tested, and typically has excellent outcomes.
First, the specialist uses ultrasound to identify the compromised veins. The area to be treated is then anesthetized. A small, hollow needle is inserted into the vein and a tiny laser fiber is then inserted through the needle along the length of the vein. The laser ablates the vein as the doctor pulls out the fiber.
At Artemis, we use the CoolTouchTM laser, which is the best in the industry. As the name implies, this instrument creates less heat than other lasers, which means patients experience less post-procedure pain and bruising, and a faster recovery time. In fact, after the procedure, most patients simply go about the rest of their day.
After treatment, it’s not time to start hitting the gym and working on those other resolutions just yet. Patients wear compression stockings and avoid strenuous exercise for one more week, giving the body time to heal. During this time, there may be mild bruising and slight discomfort that can be alleviated with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. Since the compression stockings can be worn conveniently under pants, winter is a great time to have a procedure done so that you’re ready for shorts and swimsuits in the summer. However, because insurance carriers typically require patients to undergo a trial period of wearing compression stockings before authorizing a procedure, it’s best to start the process early.
Resolve to make this year your healthiest yet, and start by planning to address any ongoing pain that you’ve been ignoring or putting off. We are at our healthiest when we go beyond merely treating symptoms and address the deeper issues that are holding us back. At Artemis we wish you a wonderful 2018 and hope that you will be successful with all your healthy resolutions.