Tips against heavy legs

When blood builds up in the vessels, the legs feel tired and heavy, especially in the summer heat. You can do that about it

Imagine doing a handstand. Quite exhausting, the pressure on the head when the blood collects there. If we stand upside down, we get an idea of ​​what our legs do every day, with what force veins and muscles have to pump that much blood back up towards the heart. Five to six liters of the red liquid flow continuously through the organism.

This is why the veins in the legs can tire - or become weak. Affected people know what that means: tired, heavy legs that may even swell, mostly towards evening. The problem worsens in summer. Then the vessels widen due to the heat, which makes blood transport even more difficult.

Movement activates the muscle pump in the legs

Especially those who spend a lot of time sitting or standing weakens the veins in the long term. Because the muscle pump only works when you are moving. Experts refer to the muscles around the veins in the lower legs as muscle pumps, which act like a pump. If you tighten it and let it go again, the blood flows through the vessels. It's like stepping on a garden hose with pressure and then stepping back down again.

The second part of the mechanism by which blood is transported through the veins are the so-called venous valves. They are located on the inner walls of the vessels and alternately open and close - similar to sluices. "If veins are blocked or their valves are not working properly, this hinders blood flow back to the heart," explains Professor Richard Brandl, vein specialist in Munich.

The blood is transported with the help of venous valves and the muscle pump. The valves work like sluices, the calf muscles compress the veins. If the venous valves do not work properly, blood remains in the vessels. This causes an uncomfortable feeling of heaviness

© W & B / Jörg Neisel

The heart or kidneys can also be the cause

However, swollen legs can also indicate heart failure, kidney failure, or problems with the deep leg veins. Because the system transports the blood in stages, from the superficial veins deeper and deeper. If the symptoms persist for longer or worsen significantly, it is better to consult a doctor.

The feeling of heaviness occurs when low-oxygen blood builds up in the leg veins. This venous blood contains, among other things, carbon dioxide. Normally we simply breathe out this metabolic product dissolved in the blood - as a colorless and odorless gas. "If metabolic products are poorly transported away, they collect in the body tissue, especially in the legs," says Brandl. This is another reason why they feel tired and heavy. If blood remains there constantly, the veins dilate over time and the valves no longer close properly.

Which is good for the veins

What can you do? "Use the muscle pump!" Is the advice of specialist Brandl. You can do that without much effort. For example, spread your toes and let go again - the blood in the veins of your legs starts moving. You can easily do this while sitting, for example under the desk in the office or at the dining table in the evening. Every now and then when you think about it.

Or you rock back and forth from time to time. Get up on tiptoe, back on the sole of your foot and put your weight on your heels. And back again. This works when you wait for the bus or the S-Bahn after work or stand at the checkout in the supermarket.

Vein gymnastics

© W & B / Jörg Neisel


© W & B / Jörg Neisel

Let your feet circle. Also change direction. First to the right, then to the left. It works well when you are seated.

© W & B / Jörg Neisel

Another sitting exercise: pull your heels up. Or move your toes towards the shin. Both activate the muscle pump.


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Flat shoes are an advantage

Flat shoes are also good for the veins. Even better: go barefoot. Strolling on the beach with bare feet strengthens muscles and veins. "The sandy soil massages the soles, cold water also tightens the veins of the feet and legs," says Brandl.

An alternative to take at home: cold sprinkles on the calves. And do sports. Move as much and as often as possible. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Ride your bike to go shopping instead of driving. And put your feet up as often as you can. If you weigh too much, you should try to lose weight. Many kilos on the scales put additional strain on the leg veins.

Compression stockings support the muscle pump

Isn't it all worthless? Then, as the next step, compression stockings come into play, which are available in four strength classes. "They strengthen and support the muscle pump, but cannot replace it," says Brandl. The health insurance usually covers the costs for two pairs per year, provided the doctor has made a corresponding diagnosis.

"We offer the stockings in different leg heights," says Sabine Kubenz, pharmaceutical engineer in a pharmacy in Dresden. She and her colleague Susann Lesche are currently training to become vein consultants. From autumn onwards, the pharmacy will be able to call itself a vein specialist center.

Tips on compression stockings

  • Wash the stockings at a maximum of 30 degrees in the machine or by hand. Use mild detergent, this is gentle on the fibers.
  • Dry the stockings lying down. This keeps the fibers elastic. If you wrap the stockings in a towel and place them on the heater overnight, you can slip into freshly laundered stockings the next morning.
  • Special gloves with nubs make it easier to put on (available at the pharmacy). It can also be used to smooth out wrinkles. "The stockings should absolutely lie smoothly on the skin," says expert Kubenz. If you're not wearing gloves, make sure your fingernails don't have sharp edges that will damage the stockings.
  • A dressing aid from the pharmacy can be helpful if you have problems putting on the stockings.

Skin care tips

  • In the morning, before putting on the compression stockings, apply a skin foam. This will prevent the skin from becoming too dry and itchy under the tight-fitting fabric. Additives such as urea or seaweed extract keep the skin supple and moisturize. "Foams are quickly absorbed," says pharmaceutical engineer Sabine Kubenz. On the other hand, residues from lotions would make the fibers of the stockings porous.
  • You can apply a nourishing and moisturizing lotion overnight. By the next morning it will be completely withdrawn. Or massage in a cooling gel with horse chestnut or vine leaves after a long day. These active ingredients should help the blood vessels in heavy legs to contract a little. They are also available for oral use.
  • Take care of your feet. Because dry, cracked calluses or edges on the toenails easily tear holes in the compression stockings.

How to put on compression stockings correctly: this is how it works

In such specialist pharmacies, for example, you can have the condition of your veins checked if you are concerned that the vessels are not functioning properly. In addition, the stockings are precisely adjusted. Because they can only support the work of the veins if they are perfectly seated. Sometimes they have to be specially made for this reason.Tip: Have your legs measured in the morning if they are not yet swollen.

"Compression class 2 stockings are most often prescribed for heavy legs," says Kubenz. Class 4 products, on the other hand, are only prescribed for very severe edema. This is how doctors describe fluid accumulations, for example in the legs. They arise from blood that is not evacuated or when fluid from the blood enters the tissue. Reason: the more the vessels expand, the more permeable their walls become.

The grandma image is now wrongly attached to support and compression stockings. It's not just the brightly colored models for athletes that have been on the market for some time that give them a new look. In addition to the classics in beige, black and gray, manufacturers also offer models in trendy colors, for example in silver or coral this spring. Or in moonlight blue. That sounds like the sea, vacation and a mild summer night. So not that bad at all.