Oh! What a feeling!
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Have you noticed that as we get older, we become more efficient with our activities of daily living? Or are we deliberating minimizing our energy output due to slowing down? What do you think? I was reading a global study on men and women about chronic oedema in the legs, with over 13000 participants most over the age of 45. What I found is that most were living a sedentary life, were overweight and over 90% had venous insufficiency among other conditions.
Venous insufficiency is a condition where the veins in your legs have difficulty to return the blood to the heart because they may be varicosed and their valves do not function well. Most people complain of feelings of fatigue and pain in the legs. It is like walking with shackles. You may find that the longer you stay in a standing position, particularly when working behind a counter, the worst your legs get. Your legs can swell during the day and get better during the night because you are lying in bed and resting. The swelling may be gone by the morning. The only problem with this scenario, is that the valves in your veins may continue to deteriorate and your skin, which is elastic may become compliant meaning that it loses its elasticity over time, just like a pair of socks, and accommodates more swelling.
What does having chronic swelling means for your legs? It means that the blood pressure is higher in these areas, the fluid in the tissue becomes protein-rich (lymphoedema) and causes a chronic low grade inflammation resulting in your body depositing fibrotic tissue. It also means that you can develop cellulitis, which can send you to the hospital in a flash and you can also develop an ulcer. None of these scenarios are appealing. So what can we do to prevent this situation to occur?
I would suggest that you move more by having regular walks. You can slowly build your strength from walking around the block to walking 4 kilometres, 4 times a week for 40 minutes. Do you know that because your biggest muscle groups are in your legs, when you exercise them you can increase your metabolism and consequently burn more calories? When walking you are working at an aerobic pace, meaning that you use fat as energy source. You can lose weight, which offers you so many benefits like decreasing the blood pressure and cholesterol. You can manage swelling in your legs, improving joint mobility, building muscle strength, and so on. Do you know that the calf muscles are also called “the second heart"? This is because your muscles pump the blood and lymphatic fluid against gravity. Ha! the things we learn! Wear your stockings when walking and you can keep your muscles strong, cellulitis and ulcers at bay, feel younger and more alive.. Swimming and water aerobics are fantastic as water exercise is not weight bearing and removes the impact on your joints. I can say that any type of activity is good. All you need to do is start moving and keep moving for the rest of your life.
I would also suggest that you visit a Complex Lymphatic Therapist (yes, this is me) who can advise you with your compression garment and offer you bandaging if needed to first reduce the swelling. I can take your measurement and fit you with compression stockings, which you may need to wear daily from the time you get dressed until you go to bed. I find it a little inconvenience that outweighs the constant fatigue and lethargy, and pain in your legs. You can benefit from a lymphatic drainage massage, which can help the movement of fluid around your joints and your body, removing wastes, toxins, and excess fluid.
Together, we can manage lymphoedema and you can enjoy life. Oh! what a feeling!