My legs are always tired, aching, swollen by end of day – what can I do?

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Workplace Health

Your symptoms are very common and might be easily treated by something as simple as changing your socks!

By Allison Rockwood

Your symptoms are very common and might be easily treated by something as simple as changing your socks! It sounds like you might be experiencing some difficulties with the veins in your legs, which could benefit from graduated medical compression stockings.

The main job of the veins in your legs is to return blood to your heart. When we walk, the contraction and relaxation of the calf muscle helps the veins move the blood up the leg. There are one-way valves in the veins that only allow the blood to flow in one direction. When the valves in the veins aren’t working properly, blood is able to flow in the opposite direction. This increases the pressures in the veins and causes spider veins or varicose veins. Not only may these be an issue cosmetically, they may also be the cause of your tired, heavy, aching legs.

If you ignore a vein problem, the condition can worsen over time and lead to permanent vein damage or serious vein diseases, such as leg ulcers and blood clots. Blood clots generally affect the deep veins in the legs and the condition is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The most common symptoms are calf swelling, pain, tenderness and increased warmth. However, nearly half of the people that have a DVT will have no symptoms.

Risk factors for DVT include prolonged sitting/standing, major surgery or leg injury, estrogen use (hormone replacement or birth control pills), pregnancy, smoking, obesity, being under 40 and history of a previous DVT. The biggest concern with a DVT is a medical condition called a pulmonary embolism where a piece of a clot in your leg can break off and travel to the lungs. A DVT can also damage the valves in the deep veins, which can lead to high pressures and result in varicose veins.

By compressing the swollen veins in your legs, graduated medical compression stockings help get the blood moving up your legs and back to your heart. To be effective, the compression applied by the stocking to your leg must be “graduated”. This means the compression is greatest at the ankle and decreases as you move up the leg. Your doctor will tell you whether you will get the most benefit from a calf length, thigh length or panty hose style of medical compression stocking. By improving the blood circulation, compression stockings will also reduce leg, ankle and foot swelling (edema).

Compression stockings are ideal for individuals who are standing or sitting for long periods at work (i.e. health care professionals, teachers, sales/retail people, waitresses, factory employees, etc.) and people who travel.

When legs remain motionless the calf muscles that usually pump the blood up the legs aren’t working. This leads to the achy feeling, swelling in the legs and puts you at risk for a DVT. Anyone who has had a DVT should wear medical compression stockings for a minimum of two years to reduce the pain/swelling and prevent the complications mentioned above.

Varicose veins are very common during pregnancy and using compression stockings can prevent these. Active women and men can improve recovery of their legs by wearing compression stockings during and/or after their workouts. If you wear your compression stockings on a daily basis you will not have to come home and elevate those tired legs at the end of the day. The graduated compression action of these stockings will softly massage your leg muscles all day while standing or sitting and slow down the progression of vein problems and diseases.

To get the full benefit of medical compression stockings they should be worn everyday and they now come in many different styles, colors and levels of compression that are designed for everyday wear by everyone. Your physician will prescribe the level of compression and length of compression stocking that is right for your legs. A certified fitter will take several measurements of your legs to ensure you get the proper size.

Do your tired legs a favor and look into treating them to a pair of graduated medical compression stockings.

Allison Rockwood is manager of Soles in Motion ( located at 121 Ilsley Avenue in the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth, 468-7911. Allison is a certified fitter for medical compression stockings and Soles in Motion carries a full range of medical compression stockings. Soles in Motion also offers: professional footwear fittings for a wide range of athletic, walking and orthopedic footwear & sandals; assessments by a certified pedorthist for custom orthotics; diabetic and advanced foot care clinics.

Geographic location: 121 Ilsley Avenue, Burnside Industrial Park, Dartmouth

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