Is Elevating Your Feet Bad for Your Circulation?

Woman lying on floor with feet up

Woman lying on floor with feet up

Put your feet up: It’s advice we’re often given after a long day. But is this practice actually good for your health — in particular, your circulation? Let’s take a closer look.

How Does Elevating Your Legs Affect Your Circulation?

When you elevate your legs at or above your heart level, it prevents the blood from pooling — especially if you have varicose veins — and improves blood flow throughout your body. Thus, elevating your feet has several benefits:

  • Reduced pressure: Gravity can weigh on your legs, especially after long periods of sitting or standing. Elevating your feet, ankles, and even knees alleviates the pressure on your legs and their veins, giving them temporary relief from gravity’s force.
  • Relief from muscle tension: If your legs, hips, or feet feel tired and sore, you can alleviate some discomfort by putting your legs up.
  • Improved blood flow: When you’re seated or standing, the blood vessels in the leg have to work hard to pump blood back upwards. Blood will flow much easier when your veins don’t have to work against gravity. 
  • Less swelling: Swollen feet can often be relieved with elevation. This can be especially helpful if you’re pregnant, have varicose veins, or have another medical condition that causes lower body swelling.
  • DVT Prevention: Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the legs which could be life-threatening if left unaddressed. Putting your feet up could help to reduce the risk of DVT.

In addition to elevating your legs when it’s convenient, you may also consider sleeping with your legs elevated. Doing so could help to improve your spinal alignment and alleviate back pain.

How to Elevate Your Legs for Improved Circulation

There are no hard and fast rules for putting your legs up, especially because you can gain benefits from even brief periods of elevation. But for those who want to maximize the benefits, Dr. Gary Jacobson recommends a few tips that may help you get the most out of elevating your legs.

  • Keep your legs above your heart. Consider the route blood has to travel from your legs to reach your heart. Elevating them at a higher level will allow gravity to move any built-up fluid away from your legs and to the heart more quickly, where it can be recirculated and dispersed evenly to eliminate pain and swelling.
  • Elevate throughout the day. If possible, aim to elevate your legs several times throughout the day. Consider keeping them up as you eat breakfast and lunch, and then elevate them again in the evening. While 20- to 30-minute intervals are ideal, shorter spans may still benefit you.
  • Keep a slight bend in the knee. Bending the knee too much when your legs are elevated could impede blood flow, but keeping your knee perfectly straight could also strain the joint. Aim for a slight, natural bend.

Another important part of good circulatory health is caring for your veins. Whether you have varicose veins or a different condition requiring specialized care, turn to Vascular Surgical Associates for solutions suited to your needs. Find your nearest location online or call 770-423-0595 to schedule an appointment.