Leg pain can create challenges at any time of the year. Symptoms of venous disease like pain, swelling, aching, tenderness, varicose and spider veins are never convenient, but different seasons have different effects on these problems. Winter in particular can be a difficult time for those suffering from vein issues. In this article, we address some of these problems and discuss strategies that can help support vein health and alleviate discomfort.
Aside from the cold, winter brings dry air and changes in atmospheric pressure. Dry air is problematic if it causes excessive itching and scratching on the areas over varicose veins. In extreme cases, a person may scratch hard enough to break through the skin and cause bleeding. To counteract this drying effect, it’s important to stay hydrated and soothe dry skin with moisturizing lotion. If itching becomes hard to control, then speak to your primary care physician about anti-itch products.
Changes in atmospheric pressure give some people headaches or sinus discomfort, but others may feel painful venous disease symptoms worsen. While frustrating on their own, these symptoms can also lead a person to be more sedentary, which unfortunately only contributes to the progression of venous disease.
While many Coloradoans tend to be active during the winter, leg pain and other symptoms of venous disease can reduce a person’s desire to get out and do even gentle exercises like walking (snowy sidewalks don’t help!). Even if you’re stuck at home, some simple interventions can keep you moving and help relieve discomfort.
There are many ways to be active at home. Simply walking around the house can be beneficial! Try to establish a “track” through different rooms, making sure to include stairs if available. If you haven’t been moving for a while, start slow and build up over time, knowing that every step is a move in the right direction. While sitting and watching TV, try a simple exercise called a seated calf raise. With your legs at a 90 degree angle, press the balls of your feet into the floor to elevate your heels, and then return your heels to the floor. Repeat for 10-12 repetitions (again, start slow and add more reps over time). Doing this exercise periodically can help increase your circulation and relieve pressure on your veins. Consider exploring gentle workout videos online. Many focus on exercises you can do while seated, which is a great place to start.
My last suggestion is a favorite: put your feet up! Lie on a couch while elevating your feet above your heart using pillows. It may help to add pillows under your knees for more support. Then, simply relax for up to 20 minutes. In addition to feeling good, this can also aid circulation and reduce discomfort.
Powerful health interventions can start with what we eat. A little indulgence here or there is okay, of course, but it’s easy to overdo it, especially if confined at home. We have just two simple nutritional suggestions for better vein health.
We mentioned the first suggestion earlier – hydrate! Many people don’t drink enough water, or they opt for caffeinated beverages that can contribute to dehydration. Sufficient hydration supports better blood consistency and circulation. Try drinking at least six 8-ounce cups of plain water throughout the day to start, or check with a doctor if you would like more personalized guidance.
The second nutritional suggestion is to reduce consumption of refined sugar as much as possible. Again, this doesn’t mean go without it entirely, but the less refined sugar you consume, the better. Sugar is one of the biggest contributors to inflammation, and chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on the overall health of the body, including the veins. To learn more about the topic nutrition and vein health read our blog article. It talks about nutritional support for veins during the holidays, but the content applies to all seasons.
While winter can exacerbate vein issues, it’s also one of the best times for vein treatment. Insurance companies may require a compression stocking trial that can last up to three months, depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms. Compression stockings can be a very effective intervention that eases leg pain and discomfort. While they are not hot or uncomfortable, they do add a light layer of extra warmth that fits nicely underneath pants during colder months.
After the compression stocking trial (if needed), a patient can typically complete treatment in about a month. Starting treatment during winter means that a patient will finish in time to enjoy spring and summer pain free.
We want to add a special note about Covid and assure patients that Artemis is taking your safety (and ours!) very seriously. We have implemented all possible precautions recommended by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and CDC. These include wearing masks and gloves, continuously disinfecting all surfaces throughout the day, and limiting the number of patients permitted in the facility. We have also installed plexiglass dividers, and all staff and patients complete a symptom and temperature check when entering the building. These measures enable us to continue treating patients’ vein issues safely.
We want patients to feel confident in our Covid safety precautions so that they don’t avoid treating their veins this winter. Feel free to give us a call at 303-955-8314 to discuss your symptoms, schedule an appointment or ask us more about our Covid precautions. We can also arrange a telehealth appointment if you prefer. In the meantime, we hope that you’ll try implementing some of the suggestions in this article to support your veins this winter, and beyond.