Elevating your legs is beneficial for your vein health as well as your overall body. Whether you practice it as an exercise or while sleeping, elevating your legs can make a monumental difference in reducing back aches, cramping, soreness and numbness around the body.
Jobs that require you to stand on your feet all day or stay seated may exacerbate pain in your back and legs and this can have long-term health issues such as constant swelling. Taking some time to elevate your legs against the wall or keeping them slightly raised during sleeping can relieve you of pain and growing discomfort.
The Health Benefits of Elevating Your Legs
It is astonishing how something as simple as elevating your legs as a routine exercise or during sleeping can positively affect your body and mind. Passive leg raise (PLR) does not only feel relaxing but brings many health benefits such as reduced leg swelling, better blood circulation, and improved sleep quality.
Anyone can practice this simple action with the help of specialized leg elevation cushion or by comfortably leaning your legs against the wall as you lie on the floor. An adjustable bed can also help you maneuver the angle and frame to raise your legs above your heart when sleeping or relaxing.
Here is how you can benefit by elevating your legs:
1. Pressure relief
Elevating your legs takes pressure off the veins. If you have a particularly taxing job that requires you to stand on your feet for extended periods of time or sit at your desk as you hunch over a computer for hours, your veins and muscles are under pressure. This causes poor circulation, pain and swelling around the body.
Taking the time to elevate your legs against the wall for a few minutes or keeping them secure on top of an elevation pillow at night takes the pressure off your veins. This greatly assists the body in allowing the blood to flow through the veins straight to the heart with the pull of gravity.
Practicing this for fifteen to twenty minutes a day in intervals can provide pain relief and comfort for many people.
2. Reduce Swelling
Due to pressure build-up, your veins are under strain and this may hinder the flow of blood causing intense swelling around the ankles, knees, and legs. Depending on your work routine and posture throughout the day, you may notice swelling in the other areas around the body accompanied with searing pain, persistent dull aches and some other serious health conditions.
When there is lack of elevation and gravity is in constant effect, this builds up swelling in your legs and feet. By using gravity to your advantage instead, you can reverse this process. By elevating your legs, the stress on your veins is reduced which eliminates pain and swelling around the body, especially the feet as they are under the pressure of the body for the whole day.
3. Improved blood flow
By elevating your legs six inches above your heart, you can lessen the pressure on your veins and significantly improve blood circulation around the body.
When every day job requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time, your veins come under intense stress as they work to pump the blood back to your heart. Raising your legs eases the stress from your veins and helps gravity move the blood from the legs to the heart. This position is also practiced in yoga to help with blood flow and reduce aches as a result of leg swelling.
Practice this for ten to fifteen minutes a day to avoid pressure build-up in your veins. You can also use footrests at work which will help keep your legs elevated when you are in a sitting position all day. When sleeping at night, use a leg elevation pillow to properly elevate your legs.
4. Alleviate Symptoms of Varicose Veins and Lymphedema
If you notice your legs feeling tender and sore, you may have developed varicose or spider veins. These are enlarged, swollen veins that may appear in your legs and feet. Varicose veins are dark blue, green, or purple and seem building and lumpy in appearance. Your legs may also feel swollen and heavy as a symptom.
There could be a combination of reasons why you may suffer from varicose veins, such as a grueling job that requires you to sit or stand all day, wearing heels for long hours or tight clothes that put pressure on the skin.
Leaking varicose veins will cause blood pools and waste to accumulate as toxins and pressure within the limb. This further causes pain and immense feelings of tiredness. If left untreated, this can cause pressure retention resulting in lymphedema.
Lymphedema is damage to the body’s lymphatic system. The thin streams of lymphatics gather the lymph tissue fluid and transmit it through the bloodstream. Lethargic or damaged lymphatics can result in leg swelling and around ankles, and feet if they are not doing their proper job.
Elevating your legs while sleeping or as part of a daily exercise can prevent blood clots and significantly help in overcoming symptoms of varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and lymphedema. Practicing it for fifteen minutes a day will relieve the pressure build-up and help reduce the symptoms of varicose veins.
5. Muscle tension relief
Uncomfortable posture, tiring physical labor, sitting all day at your desk or high impact exercising can cause pressure and pain to your muscles. In fact, this may leave your muscles sore, aching, or even swollen.
Tiredness and aches in the lower body can be eliminated by simply elevating your legs a few times a day. Lying on the floor with your legs propped up against the wall is excellent exercise to drain that stress and tension build-up in your legs.
In case you do not have the time for it during the day, try using an elevation pillow (back sleepers) or a body pillow (side sleepers) that will keep your legs elevated during the night. This can relieve the tension in your legs, feet, and hips.
6. Speedy recovery after surgery
Post-surgery care is challenging and while patients may not be able to walk or jog for a bit, they can practice elevating legs for a speedy recovery and to help blood circulation around the body.
By raising your leg above heart level when sitting or lying down, you can improve circulation and reduce swelling to speed up the recovery process. This also prevents fluid to collect and accumulate in the injured area and cause additional pain.
In case of a knee replacement surgery, patients may notice swelling which causes more pain and discomfort. Swelling around the injured knee can also limit your movement. Elevating your legs can help reduce swelling and pain. Prop up a few pillows to help raise your legs but remember to never place it under or behind the knee as it should be as straight as possible.
If you don’t know the right way, this guide explains how to properly elevate your feet and legs after surgery.
7. Reduces Edema in the Legs and Feet
Swelling around your ankles, feet and legs is caused by accumulation of fluid in these regions. This is called edema and it is usually caused by sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time or by consuming too much sodium. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between leg elevation and the reduction of leg enema.
By using gravity to your advantage and raising your legs, you can help move the stagnant fluids in your body. Edema is common when you are standing or sitting for too long, especially in hotter climates. It can also be caused due to weakened valves in the leg veins causing fluid retention.
Congestive heart failure from a heart that has difficulty pumping, kidney and liver diseases or poor nutrition that causes low levels of protein in the body can lead to edema. Additionally, pregnant women may face preeclampsia which also causes fluid build-up, resulting in poor circulation excessive swelling of the legs and ankles.
It recommended that you consume a low sodium diet to counter symptoms of edema. More importantly, practice raising your legs above heart level to reduce swelling and pain.
8. Beneficial for Nervous System
Your body is smart and aware of any growing levels of stress. When you prop your legs up against a wall, you are telling your body that it is time to switch from its stressed state to a repairing and calm state of the parasympathetic nervous system.
In a stressed situation, you automatically turn to the flight mode and your body shoots blood to the periphery to strengthen your arms and legs to fight, defend or escape potential oncoming danger. By raising your legs and practicing deep breathing, you allow your body to relax and rid itself from pressures.
This position also helps the body to digest any food you may have eaten. You may also feel lighter and healthier overall when you elevate your legs and your body switches to a calm state. It allows your nervous system to gear back into a relaxing state and repair and help your body both inside and out.
9. Relieves Chronic Back Pain Such as Sciatica or Herniated Discs
Did you know that the body’s longest nerve is the sciatic nerve? When inflamed, it can cause excruciating and unbearable amounts of pain. The sciatic nerve follows the spinal cord to the hips and all the way to the legs. Compression or inflammation may irritate it causing your lower back and legs to hurt or feel numb.
Keeping your legs elevated can greatly reduce chances of sciatica pain. You may even use adjustable bed or specialized pillows to help you raise your legs. This exercise helps lessen the pressure of the lumbar discs on the nerve root. Chronic back or leg pain may also be indicative of something more serious like a herniated disc. Leg elevation can greatly help in relieving pain related to a slipped disc as well.
10. Reduces Strain on Heart Muscles
Raising your legs can greatly reduce pressure or strain from your heart muscles. Simply elevate your legs above heart level for fifteen to twenty minutes. This way, gravity is used in your favor and it moves any accumulated fluid towards your heart to get rid of swelling or soreness.
The heart is the most important organ within the human body. Grueling or physically taxing jobs that keep your body from relaxing back to a more natural position may put strain on your heart muscles as it tries to pump blood around the body. When your blood vessels are relaxed and less constricted, it helps with blood flow, ultimately reducing strain from your heart muscles.
11. Improved Spinal Alignment
Improper spinal alignment is one of the most common reasons for back aches or legs pains. When you raise your legs to the same level as your heart, it greatly relieves strain on your spinal vertebrae as gravity does its job.
The correct position of the spine is responsible for your form in balance and it allows the nervous system to transmit information between the limbs and the brain. Headaches, joint pains, digestive issues, stress, and insomnia are some of the serious aftereffects of incorrect spinal alignment.
Sleeping with a body pillow that allows the elevation of legs throughout the night can greatly help with this problem. Exercising leg elevation as part of your routine can also help relieve pressure off the spine and maintain a good posture. Additionally, this neutral spine position can also help get your spine into better alignment compared to side sleeping or curling positions in bed.
Does Elevating Legs Increase Blood Pressure?
Elevating your legs can increase your blood pressure. So make sure to practice this in smaller intervals.
If you face lower blood pressure, this position can help better regulate blood pressure levels. Shock causes severe low blood pressure. If you suspect a person is in shock, you should immediately call for medical assistance. According to Mayo Clinic, you should lay this person down and elevate their legs and feet slightly unless it causes them discomfort.
This is because elevation of legs increases blood pressure due to an increase in stroke volume which refers to the volume of blood ejected per beat. Increased stroke volume is more efficient and as it may also result in better work output and performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it good to elevate your legs while sleeping?
Sleeping with your legs elevated offers a lot of benefits. Raising your legs six to twelve inches above your heart level takes away the excess pressure from the veins in your legs. It allows for better blood circulation out of the leg veins and keeps it from accumulating in the legs.
It also feels amazing when you sleep with your legs raised! You can enjoy the benefits of sleeping with legs elevated by placing leg pillow or a few ordinary pillows propped under your knees or lower legs.
Gravity’s pull ensures that the excess blood in your legs flows back to the heart and around the body. This greatly reduces chances of persistent leg pains, pins and needles, soreness or numbness in your legs and feet when you wake up in the morning.
How often should you elevate your legs?
You can practice leg elevation every day for 10-15 minutes to reap the health benefits. However, if you suffer from any serious health conditions like spider veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or any other vein problem, it’s recommended that you consult with a doctor to find out the right way and frequency for elevating your legs.