Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a common vein condition that causes poor blood flow. CVI affects up to 20 percent of adults, according to the Vascular Disease Foundation. Fortunately, exercise is an effective vein treatment that can help patients overcome venous insufficiency and other vein problems.
Veins are part of the circulatory system. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins bring blood back to the heart. Veins must fight gravity to move blood upwards from your feet to your heart. Tiny valves trap blood in small segments of the vein in between heartbeats to prevent the blood from flowing back down into your feet.
These valves can wear out over time and allow blood to leak backward between heartbeats. When these valves malfunction, blood can accumulate in your lower legs and cause pressure against the insides of those veins. Over time, blood accumulation causes the veins to stretch and weaken. These veins do not transport blood efficiently. Doctors refer to this as venous insufficiency.
The veins swell in response to the pressure of blood accumulation in the lower legs. The swelling can cause veins to bloat and twist and potentially cause varicose veins and spider veins. Because they are diseased veins that do poorly move blood, varicose veins can also cause chronic venous insufficiency.
Exercise as a Treatment for Venous Insufficiency
A vein doctor may recommend vein treatment for venous insufficiency. Treatment may include home treatments, minimally invasive treatment, and vein surgery. Home treatment may include elevating your legs to allow the blood to drain out of the lower limbs and wearing a compression hose that prevents blood from flowing backward. Avoiding sitting and standing for a long time can help. Minimally invasive treatment can help if venous insufficiency occurs in superficial veins at the surface of the skin.
Exercise is a surprisingly effective treatment for venous insufficiency. Exercising gets your heart pumping, and the extra pumping force of your heart pushes the blood up and out of your lower legs.
Walking is particularly beneficial. Other structured exercises can help treat venous insufficiency and promote overall vein health. Anyone with a heart condition should consult with a doctor before starting or changing any exercise program.
Exercises focusing on the lower legs are effective because venous insufficiency usually affects veins there. Specifically, exercises that focus on the muscles in your calves because the force is gravity is the greatest, so the veins must work harder to pump blood. Exercising the muscles of your lower limbs helps your heart pump blood up through your legs. Exercise also builds muscles, which promotes better circulation.
Lastly, exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your general health. Your vein doctor can help you learn more about how exercise can help venous insufficiency.