The Impact of Exercise on Varicose Veins

Updated on March 11, 2021

Vein issues among adults are common throughout the world, with an estimated one-third of the population impacted by varicose veins during their lifetime. Vein problems like varicose veins, also known as thread veins, are mostly a cosmetic annoyance, as they present as blue and purple vein clusters beneath the skin, visible to the eye. However, some people experience pain and discomfort, including itching and heaviness in the legs when varicose veins set in. When vein issues cause pain, it can be challenging to know when and if exercise is a good idea. 

Having a physically active lifestyle is one of the many suggestions doctors and vein specialists offer to patients with varicose veins. Maintaining healthy blood flow is an important factor in keeping vein issues at bay, but there are times where exercise can cause more discomfort than help. Before hitting the gym or going on that long-awaited jog, here are several things to know about varicose veins and exercise, including the best exercises, when to workout after a procedure, and how to take care of your veins over time.

Best Exercises for Vein Health

It is first necessary to understand that exercise in any form does not cause varicose veins. In many cases, vein conditions that lead to failure of the veins are hereditary, or the result of pregnancy in women. Lifting heavy weights, running, or swimming are not known to create varicose veins in anyone. However, varicose veins can get worse if you continue intense workouts after they develop, particularly if you experience pain or other discomfort in your legs. The best exercises for varicose veins once they appear include the following:

  • Walking – as a low-impact workout, walking does not harm varicose veins like running might. It helps strengthen the calf muscles without putting extra strain on the body.
  • Biking or Elliptical – similar to running, you can get your heart rate up without putting additional pressure on your legs through biking or elliptical training. You can click here if you are planning to get one and recreate an outdoor activity in your own home.
  • Specific Leg Exercises – calf raises, side leg lifts, and bicycle leg exercises all help work the blood flow in your legs without added pressure. 

Individuals with varicose veins may also enjoy weight lifting and running, but it is important to take it easy on the legs when doing so. Experts suggest swapping out heavier weights with lighter ones if you experience pain because of varicose veins, and consider wearing compression stocking during and after a workout. For runners, a slow jog is preferred on a soft surface to help lessen the pressure placed on the legs. 

Working Out After Vein Procedures

Many individuals who have varicose veins for an extended period ultimately opt for medical intervention for treatment. One of the most common treatment options is injection sclerotherapy which requires using a fine-point needle to inject the vein with a chemical that ultimately eliminates the affected vein. Over time, the broken vein fades and disappears from the leg, as does the pain and discomfort that came with it.

While there is not much down time after injection sclerotherapy treatment, Eddie Chaloner, vein specialist, explains that working out right after a thread veins removal procedure is not always the best idea. He states, “It is advisable to avoid heavy exercise for a week or two while the healing process takes place. You are unlikely to harm yourself if you exercise sooner, but it will likely hurt if you do.” Patients of varicose vein removal procedures should speak with their vein specialists or doctor for recommendations on when to get back to exercising, and to what extent.

Taking Care of Your Veins

If exercise is not an option for those with varicose or thread veins, there are other steps to take to ensure the health of the veins and legs remains intact. Wearing compression stockings or socks can be beneficial in increasing the circulation of blood in the legs – one of the main reasons varicose veins form in the first place. Wearing compression stockings is especially important when sitting or standing for a long period, and for pregnant women. Additionally, elevating the legs is helpful from a circulation perspective. 

Adults with varicose veins are not out of luck when it comes to exercising, whether the vein issues have just recently appeared or if thread veins removal treatment has already taken place. Focus on what feels right for your body, but ease into to each workout while paying close attention to pain or discomfort you feel in the legs. These small steps combined with the exercises mentioned above will help in keeping varicose vein issues to a minimum while working out.

You can also learn more by visiting the Elite Vein Clinic.

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