We recently got back from a trip to Iceland and it was a blast, yet, my girlfriend kept mentioning how her feet would swell up every time she got on an airplane. So I set out to figure out what remedies there were for people who have chronic swollen feet.
Why do your feet get swollen?
Your feet and ankles swell when fluid in the blood escapes from capillaries and accumulates in the tissues surrounding your bones and ligaments. Causes range from benign to serious and include:
- Being overweight: can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid to build up in the feet, legs, and ankles.
- Standing or sitting for long periods: When the muscles are inactive, they can't pump body fluids back up toward the heart. The retention of water and blood can cause swelling in the legs.
- Lengthy car/airplane rides: During long journeys, or long periods of immobility the muscles of the legs are not active, causing blood to pool in the veins of the legs, and some fluid into the tissue of the lower legs.
- Warm weather: Excess body heat can cause the blood vessels to expand, allowing fluids to flow into the surrounding tissues.
Swelling can also occur while taking particular medications, such as:
Although they may not be comfortable, the above conditions are very common and easy to get rid of. After doing some research, we found 4 reoccurring remedies that are easy to implement. Most of these remedies work by improving circulation and returning fluid to blood vessels. Here are four remedies to help your swollen feet:
- Get regular exercise: contracting leg muscles help the veins pump blood back to the heart and improve circulation
- Stretching: If you're sitting or standing for a long period of time (like on an airplane or a car ride) stretch your legs and move around every couple of hours. A good rule of thumb is to walk for at least 2-5 minute for every hour you have to sit (See: How Taking A Few Steps Can Offset Sitting)
- Support hose:Compression stockings are a specialized hosiery designed to help prevent the occurrence of, and guard against, further progression of venous disorders by promoting good circulation
- Diet: consider cutting your salt intake to a teaspoon or less daily. This will help to reduce water retention
If none of the above seem to work, you may want to seek medical attention as it could be a sign of heart problems, kidney failure, or side effects of prescription medications. Like with all medical issues, please consult your physician.
Preventing foot, leg, and ankle swelling
Swelling of the foot, leg, and ankle can’t always be prevented. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent it. Some good strategies include:
Exercising regularly helps to maintain good circulation. For adults ages 18 to 64, the World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week
Avoid sitting or standing for a long time. Make sure you get up or move around periodically
Regulate your salt intake. Adults over age 51 and those with certain health conditions should keep their salt intake below 1,500 mg per day
When to see a doctor
While swelling in your feet isn't usually a cause for concern, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible if:
- You have heart or kidney disease and are experiencing swelling
- You have liver disease and are experiencing swelling in your legs
- The swollen areas are red and feel warm to the touch
- Your body temperature is higher than normal
- You are pregnant and are experiencing sudden or severe swelling
- You have tried home remedies, but they haven’t been successful
As always, if you are feeling pain or discomfort, seek medical attention immediately.