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Controlling Swelling with Leg Elevation

Chronic swelling or edema is often caused by veins that have been damaged and don’t work as they should. These veins have lost their ability to push blood from the feet back up to the heart, resulting in pooling of blood and swelling in the feet, ankles and lower legs. Since there is no cure for these damaged veins, they must be taken care of with rest, elevation and, if recommended by your doctor, the use of compression wraps or stockings.

Swelling in the feet, ankles and lower legs is caused by standing or sitting with your legs hanging down. This forces these damaged veins to now have to pump the blood “uphill”. This adds strain to already stressed blood vessels.

Swelling is best managed by giving these veins a rest. Activity which requires you to stand or sit with your feet hanging down for long periods of time should be avoided. At regular times throughout the day, you should lie flat and elevate your feet so that they are higher than your heart. This helps those veins to drain the blood and fluid from the feet, ankles and lower legs, since in this position, the blood is now flowing “downhill”.

While standing in one place should be avoided, walking can actually be helpful. Exercising the leg muscles while walking can help “pump” the swelling out of the lower leg. Therefore, plan to take short walks throughout the day.