Legs can swell for many reasons, including muscle or joint inflammation, remaining in one position for too long, the removal of lymph nodes in your lower body during cancer surgery, or consuming high levels of salt in your diet that leads to water retention. Swollen legs can be painful and stiff, and may increase your risk of infection and circulatory problems, according to Columbia University Health Services. Ask your doctor if exercises can be beneficial to your condition if you suffer from edema, or swelling, in your legs.
Walking is a low-impact, easy exercise that works the muscles in your legs and can control the swelling in your lower extremities. When you exercise your lower body, the fluid that has collected is redirected away from your legs, which decreases the edema. Francine Manuel of Cancer Supportive Care Programs recommends a regular schedule of walking, under your doctor’s supervision, to manage lower-body lymphedema. Lymphedema involves swelling of a limb that occurs when lymphatic fluid does not drain properly, and may occur after lymph nodes are removed from the body as part of a cancer treatment.
Leg lifts can help you relieve the symptoms of swollen legs. Lifting your legs pushes the accumulated fluid away from area in which it is pooling in your legs. If your legs are swollen from a sports injury, give yourself time to rest and heal before you exercise. You shouldn’t feel any pain while you’re doing a leg lift. Stand in front of a chair, and grasp the back of the chair for support. Keep your leg straight and facing forward. Lift your leg off the floor and move it as far back as you can, while still keeping your knee straight. Your doctor or physical therapist will determine how many repetitions are safe for your condition.
Calf stretches that you perform on your toes also squeeze fluids away from your leg and back up toward your heart. Hold on to a wall or a staircase banister for support, and raise yourself up on your toes. Hold for a couple of seconds and ease yourself back down. You’ll feel a stretch in your calf, which can be a primary location for leg edema.
Your doctor may prescribe compression stockings or socks to wear while you exercise to alleviate the pain and swelling in your legs. A compression sock is elasticized and supports your leg while pushing the excess fluids out of the pooling spot in your legs. The garments are available at medical supply stores; your doctor will let you know the level of compression you should use.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.