Taking Care of Your Legs While on Vacation
We like to think the summer months move at a slower pace, but in fact we’re often very physically active in warm weather. This is a great thing! One the other hand, if you find your legs are extra tired after long bouts of sight-seeing or standing around watching the kids at the park or pool, something may be amiss. We’d like to share a few tips to help you avoid or reduce painful, achy legs this summer.
Sometimes the cause of discomfort in the lower legs can be a sign of venous disease. Venous disease is a condition that can sneak up on you slowly. It can happen to anyone, both men and women, even in middle age. The early signs are frequent fatigue, swelling, pain or feelings of “fullness” in the lower legs. It’s easy to ignore these signs, however, and write them off to a long day of sitting or standing, even if you are moving around. Later signs of disease are more visible and harder to ignore: varicose veins or spider veins. But there are ways to keep those invisible symptoms from progressing.
Even though long periods of sitting or standing are contributing factors to venous disease, there are steps you can take prior to boarding a plane, waiting in line for an attraction or leaving on a long car ride. Start by drinking plenty of water and dressing smart in loose-fitting clothes. Adequate hydration keeps your blood from becoming thicker and harder to circulate. Looser clothing reduces restrictions on circulation.
Under those loose-fitting pant legs, you might even try wearing compression stockings, which help keep swelling down and add extra support for veins with leaky valves. Compression, in other words, helps the blood return to your heart instead of sliding back past faulty valves. This reduces pain and swelling. Another good tip is to leave the high heels at home! Elevating your heels adds unnecessary pressure to veins by reducing venous return to the heart.
Next, if you are in a car or on a plane, think of ways to improve your circulation. If you are travelling by car, stop every couple hours, stretch your legs, do calf exercises, or take a short walk. Travelling by plane can be a particular challenge for people with vein issues due to the narrow seats, the prolonged sitting and the limited legroom. No matter how long your flight is, try to walk up and down the aisle every hour or so if the seat belt sign is off. If you can’t get up, try flexing and extending the ankle every few minutes to help with circulation.
CNN published a nice article on how to work in more stretching and exercise on an airplane. Check out: “Airplane yoga: 18 exercises for healthy flying” We specifically recommend #6: Wake up your legs with leg and hip movements to create mobility and take away pressure from your knee joints.
But even with the seat belt on, there are things you can do, such as keep shifting in your seat and try different sitting positions. Keep lifting your heels and rolling your ankles. An article on the United Airlines website talks about foot pumps (pulling your toes toward your knees) and ankle circles, so check out their advice.
Once you arrive at your destination, elevate your legs for several minutes to give them a break. After a long sitting period in a car or in a plane, take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes and stretch those legs. Your veins will thank you! And don’t forget to take advantage of the exercise equipment offered in some hotels. Use the cycling equipment for 30 minutes. Avoid exercises that increase venous pressure, such as lunges, crunches or sit-ups.
If there is a pool in your hotel – even better! Swimming and walking are the best exercises for optimal vein health. Avoid hot tubs, though—even if soaking is very tempting for painful legs—since the heat can dilate veins and cause more swelling.
Don’t forget about your diet though. Even if you think you deserve a nice dessert while sightseeing, avoid fatty food and especially food high in salt. Reducing salt intake can help with the swelling that comes with varicose veins. Last, go for the high-fiber foods and drink plenty of water. Eating fiber and staying hydrated reduces the chances of constipation, a contributing factor for varicose veins. Saying yes to the fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains makes you feel better, too.
Of course, leg care isn’t complete without attention to the skin. Wear your sunscreen! This is (hopefully) a no-brainer nowadays, but make sure you have adequate protection. Use at least SPF 50 in Colorado where high altitude is always a concern, and at least SPF 30 if you are in Mexico or another southern area. Remember to reapply after sweating or swimming.
With these few tips in mind, you should have healthier, happier legs this summer. If your symptoms still persist, come see us for a consult so we can determine if it’s time for more comprehensive treatment. Don’t let venous disease get a leg up!
Call us today if you are thinking of getting a vein treatment. We are happy to chat with you.