As the first warm days of summer approach are your legs starting to ache? Do they feel heavier as the day goes on? Does the dull pain in your legs make you feel lethargic? Have you noticed your ankles are puffy at the end of the day? Why does the hot weather makes our legs ache and what can we do about it?

Veins and hot weather

Our circulatory system is responsible for moving blood through the body. With each heart beat blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all the organs and tissues before it returns to the heart through the veins.  Veins have the difficult job of pumping deoxygenated blood back up towards the heart against gravity.  The body is programmed to adapt to hot weather and attempts to reduce its temperature by making blood flow quicker away from the organs towards the skin’s surface.  This is why people may look hot and flustered when it’s hot.  In some people, under increased pressure the vein walls slacken, which means that the valves can no longer close and some blood flows back down the veins and pools in the lower limb causing swelling or oedema.  Venous insufficiency, a situation in which veins are not working correctly, affects around 40% of the population and is more common in those above 50 years old and in women.

6 Tips to prevent aching legs

1.When possible keep your feet up above the level of your heart. When your legs are elevated the veins do not need to pump as hard to get the blood back to your heart

2.Wear compression hosiery. We know this is not ideal in hot weather and may not be the look you are going for but compression socks gently squeeze your legs, compressing the veins and encouraging the blood to flow upwards as opposed to pooling in your lower limbs.  Don’t forget that compression socks are registered medical devices, like anti-inflammatories and need to be fitted correctly, we advise buying from a reputable manufacturer and consulting your pharmacist or GP.  Our suggestion for hot weather is a pair of Class 1 Micro beige with open toe with a pair of loose trousers and sandals.  Tights may be asking too much but if you really want to wear a dress or shorts then wear the compression hosiery the night before and leave them on until you go out into the summer sun.

3. Use cooling leg gels with a light massage.  Gels containing centella, for example, have been shown to have an effect on the microcirculation including improving venous insufficiency and reducing ankle swelling.

4. Avoid standing on your feet for too long.  Whereas in the winter we are happy to stay at home more, the longer summer days means that you spend more time outside on your feet.

5. Put your feet in and out of cold water for around 15 minutes if possible. As we have seen the heat causes the veins to dilate while the cold water helps them to contract. Ideally alternate between hot and cold to create a hydrotherapy effect.

6. Stay active. Even when doing light exercise your calf muscles are pumping which helps constrict the veins and keeps the blood flowing.