Feeling heaviness in your legs? Especially in summer or throughout the year? Your blood flow may not be functioning properly and you should take the right steps to regain your sense of well-being and lightness.
The circulation of blood in our body
Our body contains on average five litres of blood, the circulation of which is orchestrated by the cardiovascular system. The blood network consists of three types of vessels:
- Arteries run from the heart to transport blood to the organs. This influx of blood to the organs provides nutrients and dioxygen.
- The veins transport blood from the organs to the heart and thus allow the removal of waste and carbon dioxide.
- The capillaries connect the arteries and veins. It is in the capillaries that exchanges take place between blood supply and the removal of undesirable elements.
The heart is a pump that propels blood through the arteries, helping to irrigate the body. Blood circulates in only one direction, and once it has gone to each of our organs it returns to the heart via the veins thanks to the action of a second pump: the calf muscle activated by the crushing of the arch of the foot. Once raised, the oxygen-poor blood is sent to the lungs to get rid of the carbon monoxide and replenish the oxygen. It returns to the heart and is propelled into the arteries. This is how the blood cycle works, endlessly renewable.
Focus on the return of blood to the heart
Once the nutrient-rich blood has done its job in the organs, it must return to the heart if circulation is to remain fluid. The calf, just like the heart, acts as a pump and propels poor blood to the top of our body. This blood can circulate thanks to the opening of the venous valves, the little flaps in our veins. They open and close in response to the muscle contraction created by the movement of our legs.
However, sometimes venous valves have malfunctions and do not close properly. The blood is then no longer properly propelled towards the heart and remains partially blocked at the bottom of our body, due to gravity.
The feeling of heavy legs is the consequence of this dysfunction in the valves.
Discomfort in the legs
The lower limbs are the first to be affected by poor circulation: heaviness, tingling, pins and needles, restlessness, etc. These discomforts can be intensified by prolonged standing, in summer when it’s hot, but also in winter for people who are sensitive to underfloor heating.
If nothing is done, the feeling of heavy legs may increase and be accompanied by other symptoms:
- Water retention– blood stagnation related to valve dysfunction pushes the fluid in the blood out of the veins and into the tissues, causing swelling, mainly in the feet, ankles and calves.
- Telangiectasias – the stagnation of blood also causes small blood vessels to dilate and become visible on the surface of the skin.
- Pruritus – an unpleasant sensation can also be the result of poor blood circulation, leading to the urge to scratch.
It is necessary to listen to these early warning signals as the situation can worsen and become a real illness. These first symptoms are actually the beginnings of what is known as chronic venous insufficiency.
But what are the causes of these venous system disorders?
Heredity, obesity and old age are the most important risk factors for blood circulation disorders.
In addition, women are particularly affected. During pregnancy, the compression exerted by the uterus hinders venous return. It is therefore common to see oedema or even varicose veins that may fade or disappear after delivery.
Improve your daily life and reduce the risk of complications
In order to relieve the discomfort caused by a feeling of heavy legs and to prevent varicose veins or other complications, it is recommended to avoid a static position (whether standing or sitting at a desk!). Doing regular physical activity (walking, climbing stairs) reduces discomfort.
If the static position cannot be avoided, then it is necessary to wear compression stockings. Their elasticity will compress your lower limbs and thus promote venous return.
Cold is also a known remedy for these feelings of discomfort. In case of discomfort and pain, it is indeed advisable to take cold showers and to avoid hot baths (as well as saunas/hammams).
Red vine, pilosella, horse chestnut and buckwheat are known for their beneficial effects on blood circulation. They are used as dietary supplements to facilitate venous return, strengthen the venous walls, reduce the phenomenon of water retention, etc.
Finally, it is also important to adopt a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet, not to smoke, to exercise regularly, to avoid being overweight, to wear clothes that do not interfere with blood circulation, etc. All these elements will allow you to take care of your legs and your venous system!
- Collège des enseignants de médecine vasculaire (CEMV). Insuffisance veineuse chronique. ECN 2018. Presses universitaires François Rabelais.
- « Jambes lourdes : symptômes, causes et facteurs favorisant », fr, 2022. [Consulté le 14.12.2022]
- « Comprendre les varices des jambes », fr, 2022. [Consulté le 14.12.2022]
- « Préserver le capital veineux de ses jambes », fr, 2022. [Consulté le 14.12.2022]
- Engelberger, P. Kern, B. Ney, A. Dabiri, T. Merminod, L. Mazzolai, “Insuffisance veineuse chronique » in Swiss Medical Forum, 2016.