Does Crossing Your Legs Cause Varicose Veins?

  • Posted on: Sep 10 2019
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Like many other myths regarding varicose veins, crossing your legs is not the cause of this condition.

Among the many misconceptions about varicose veins is the belief that crossing your legs causes the bulging, purple-colored cords along the legs. This myth is in part due to an incident in the late 1990s, when a company touting a supplement to promote good circulation started a campaign to get women to stop crossing their legs in order to prevent varicose veins. The only problem with that premise is that there is no scientific basis supporting the assumption that crossing one leg over the other while sitting leads to varicose veins.

Varicose veins can be traced to several factors — and crossing one’s legs isn’t one of them. The condition occurs deep in the leg veins where the valves that open to let blood flow back to the heart fail to close. When that happens, blood flows backwards and collects in the vein, stretching the vein walls outward into twisting, protruding varicose veins. 

The underlying cause of that breakdown of the venous system has nothing to do with crossed legs. Rather, varicose veins result from a variety of influences, ranging from heredity to lifestyle.

What Really Causes Varicose Veins — and What You Can Do About It

That valve malfunction can more likely be attributed to family history than your sitting position. Varicose veins tend to run in families, so if a family member has varicose veins you have a higher chance of having the condition. Being overweight also stresses the leg veins, as blood is blocked from reaching the heart by abdominal fat. 

Pregnant women stand a greater risk of varicose veins due to extra blood flowing through the veins combined with hormones that dilate and stretch the vein walls. Older people and women also exhibit higher incidences of varicose veins.

Perhaps the myth of crossed legs causing varicose veins stems from another well-known factor said to give rise to the condition — sitting for long periods of time. When you sit (or stand) for prolonged periods, your vein valves work overtime to fight the downward gravity of blood movement. This naturally leads to pooling of the blood that can eventually manifest as varicose veins. Since many women sit with their legs crossed, they may assume this position is related to varicose vein development. Again, that’s not the case — it has more to do with being sedentary in general.

If you’re genetically predisposed to varicose veins, you can’t do much to prevent them. However, you can take precautions to reduce your chance of getting them or lessening the discomfort that sometimes accompanies the condition.

Exercise. Exercising not only maintains your ideal weight, it strengthens the legs muscles that keep the blood flowing through the veins. Walking, swimming, and biking all tone the calf muscles while also being less stressful on joints.

Avoid Restrictive Clothing. Tight clothing, especially garments that constrict the waist, legs, or groin area, makes it harder for blood to circulate. In addition, switch your high heels for low-heeled footwear. Low-heels force the calf muscles to work, thereby aiding circulation.

Wear Compression Stockings. These super-elastic stockings compress the legs veins, forcing the blood flow upward to the chest. Compression stockings are available in drugstores or medical supply outlets. For the strongest elastic, you’ll need a doctor’s prescription.

Move Around. If you have a job that requires you to sit or stand for long hours, make sure to move around to get the blood pumping in the veins. The same holds true if you’re on a long plane trip or car ride. Take frequent walks or do simple in-seat exercises, such as moving your ankle in circles to encourage blood flow.

Treating Varicose Veins

If you have tried self-care methods and still have varicose veins, the experts at the Vein & Vascular Institute can detail several minimally-invasive outpatient procedures that eliminate varicose veins. These options are virtually pain-free and require no downtime for recovery. We’ll also discuss your risk factors and what potentially does — and doesn’t — cause varicose veins. Make an appointment today to learn more.

Among the many misconceptions about varicose veins is the belief that crossing your legs causes the bulging, purple-colored cords along the legs. This myth is in part due to an incident in the late 1990s, when a company touting a supplement to promote good circulation started a campaign to get women to stop crossing their legs in order to prevent varicose veins. The only problem with that premise is that there is no scientific basis supporting the assumption that crossing one leg over the other while sitting leads to varicose veins.

Varicose veins can be traced to several factors — and crossing one’s legs isn’t one of them. The condition occurs deep in the leg veins where the valves that open to let blood flow back to the heart fail to close. When that happens, blood flows backwards and collects in the vein, stretching the vein walls outward into twisting, protruding varicose veins. 

The underlying cause of that breakdown of the venous system has nothing to do with crossed legs. Rather, varicose veins result from a variety of influences, ranging from heredity to lifestyle.

What Really Causes Varicose Veins — and What You Can Do About It

That valve malfunction can more likely be attributed to family history than your sitting position. Varicose veins tend to run in families, so if a family member has varicose veins you have a higher chance of having the condition. Being overweight also stresses the leg veins, as blood is blocked from reaching the heart by abdominal fat. 

Pregnant women stand a greater risk of varicose veins due to extra blood flowing through the veins combined with hormones that dilate and stretch the vein walls. Older people and women also exhibit higher incidences of varicose veins.

Perhaps the myth of crossed legs causing varicose veins stems from another well-known factor said to give rise to the condition — sitting for long periods of time. When you sit (or stand) for prolonged periods, your vein valves work overtime to fight the downward gravity of blood movement. This naturally leads to pooling of the blood that can eventually manifest as varicose veins. Since many women sit with their legs crossed, they may assume this position is related to varicose vein development. Again, that’s not the case — it has more to do with being sedentary in general.

If you’re genetically predisposed to varicose veins, you can’t do much to prevent them. However, you can take precautions to reduce your chance of getting them or lessening the discomfort that sometimes accompanies the condition.

Exercise. Exercising not only maintains your ideal weight, it strengthens the legs muscles that keep the blood flowing through the veins. Walking, swimming, and biking all tone the calf muscles while also being less stressful on joints.

Avoid Restrictive Clothing. Tight clothing, especially garments that constrict the waist, legs, or groin area, makes it harder for blood to circulate. In addition, switch your high heels for low-heeled footwear. Low-heels force the calf muscles to work, thereby aiding circulation.

Wear Compression Stockings. These super-elastic stockings compress the legs veins, forcing the blood flow upward to the chest. Compression stockings are available in drugstores or medical supply outlets. For the strongest elastic, you’ll need a doctor’s prescription.

Move Around. If you have a job that requires you to sit or stand for long hours, make sure to move around to get the blood pumping in the veins. The same holds true if you’re on a long plane trip or car ride. Take frequent walks or do simple in-seat exercises, such as moving your ankle in circles to encourage blood flow.

Treating Varicose Veins

If you have tried self-care methods and still have varicose veins, the experts at the Vein & Vascular Institute can detail several minimally-invasive outpatient procedures that eliminate varicose veins. These options are virtually pain-free and require no downtime for recovery. We’ll also discuss your risk factors and what potentially does — and doesn’t — cause varicose veins. Make an appointment today to learn more.

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