Table of Contents
- What Causes Swelling in the legs? :
- Symptoms of Swollen Legs:
- Home Remedies for Swollen Legs:
- 1. Massage of the swollen leg:
- 2. Epsom salt baths:
- 3. Application of lepas:
- 4. Abhyanga treatment:
- 5. Application of essential oils:
- 6. Ayurvedic herbs:
- Other Solutions for Swollen Legs:
- 1. Increasing movement:
- 2. Elevation of legs:
- 3. Use of compression socks:
- 4. Eating magnesium rich food:
- 5. Increasing water intake:
- 6. Decreasing our salt intake:
- When to Seek Medical Help:
- Frequently Asked Questions:
- I have swollen feet. Does it mean that I have heart disease?
- Can essential oils be used for reducing swelling in legs?
- Is swelling of legs during pregnancy dangerous?
- Is Epsom salt good for reducing swelling?
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When you take long flights or car rides, you might notice a slight swelling in your legs, especially in the ankles and feet.1 This swelling caused due to fluid retention in tissues is called oedema.2 It is the effect of gravity that makes it more noticeable in the foot, ankle and legs, but it can occur in any part of the body.1,2 When our feet get swollen, all we can do is temporarily manage the pain and discomfort.2 Moreover, mild swelling generally disappears on its own.
What Causes Swelling in the legs? :
There is a wide range of reasons that can cause swelling of legs. From lifestyle choices to certain normal physiological conditions, to few serious medical conditions, one or more reasons may be responsible for it. Some of them are as follows:
- As we continuously stand for long durations of time, fluid tends to build up in the tissues in the leg by the action of gravity, which causes oedema. 4 During summers, when the weather is hot, our body becomes inefficient in removing the tissue fluids, thus causing oedema. 4
- In burn injuries including sunburns, the skin retains fluid as a response, causing swelling. 4
- Swelling of ankles can be commonly seen during pregnancy as the blood vessels of the lower limbs experience pressure of the growing uterus. Furthermore, the pregnancy hormones encourage retention of water.2, 4
- Oedema can sometimes be seen two weeks before the beginning of menstrual cycle in some women. 4
- The use of certain contraceptive pills containing the hormone oestrogen can also cause oedema. 4
- The regular use of certain prescribed medications that you take for conditions like high blood pressure (anti-hypertensives), pain relief (corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) might be the cause of oedema. 4
- The deficiency of protein or vitamin B1 may cause oedema. 4
- Swelling can be seen in certain allergic reactions and severe inflammation.2
- Oedema can occur or it might worsen in certain diseases like congestive heart failure, lung, liver, kidney and thyroid diseases.2
- Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition in which the valves in the veins of the leg weaken, causing pooling of blood, leading to varicose veins. This leads to swelling in the legs if left untreated. 2, 4
Symptoms of Swollen Legs:
The signs that indicate the presence of oedema are:
- Swelling in ankles, feet, etc. i.e. the affected area 4
- There might be a shiny or stretched appearance of the skin in the swollen area2
- There might be pain in the legs 4
- Stiffening of joints may be noted 4
- Due to swollen legs, you might experience difficulty in walking2
- Fluctuations in weight, such as rapid weight gain in a few weeks or month, might be experienced 4
- On pressing the skin over the swollen area for 5 secs, the formation of a dimple-like depression can be seen; this is referred to as pitting oedema2, 4
- If the above mentioned test doesn’t leave a depression on your skin, it is called non- pitting oedema2, 4
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Home Remedies for Swollen Legs:
We can adopt certain lifestyle and home remedies which help in reduction of swelling and management of pain and discomfort experienced due to swollen legs.
1. Massage of the swollen leg:
Massaging the swollen area without application of too much pressure or causing pain, but with firm strokes upwards towards the heart has been found to be helpful. This helps in draining the excess fluid build-up by directing the fluid towards the heart and preventing it from pooling in the feet.3
2. Epsom salt baths:
There are tons of people who testify that the use of Epsom baths relieves swelling of legs. The exact mechanism is unknown, but it is seen that soaking legs in water with dissolved Epsom salt brings down the swelling by supplementing magnesium through the skin. Being an easily available ingredient, it is cost-effective, easy to use and nearly risk-free. Therefore, it is a hack recommended even by doctors.2
3. Application of lepas:
Ayurvedic pastes which are applied on our body are called as lepas and some of them help relieve swollen legs. A semisolid paste made by adding the herbs punarnava, ginger, deodar (cedar) can help reduce swelling in feet.
4. Abhyanga treatment:
In this Ayurvedic treatment, oil is poured on the body and massaged. In this method, a decoction (dashamoola katha) is used to reduce the swelling.
5. Application of essential oils:
Essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, helichrysum, marjoram, eucalyptus and chamomile can be used to reduce swelling. We can use it by adding 2-3 drops of it in hot water bath and soaking the swollen legs in it for 10 minutes or until the water turns cold. Essential oils can also be used to massage the legs. Before using it for massage, the essential oil should be diluted by addition of another oil like coconut oil.2,
6. Ayurvedic herbs:
Certain Ayurvedic herbs are used for reduction of swellings. Herbs such as arjuna, punarnava and adraka (ginger) can be used in the form of powders, pastes, decoctions, juices and herbal wines in doses as directed by an Ayurvedic physician.
Other Solutions for Swollen Legs:
1. Increasing movement:
Constantly standing or sitting in a place or specific position may cause or worsen the swelling in legs. This effect can be countered by increasing your activity and movement. As we exercise the muscles of the leg, the retained fluid gets pumped back to the heart, reducing the swelling.3 Even slight movement of legs and knees every few minutes may help.2
2. Elevation of legs:
Yoga poses, like the ones involving lying on the floor with raised legs leaning against the wall, might help reduce swelling in the legs. Simply elevating the leg above the level of our heart using pillows as props for a few hours a day, or while lying down are helpful. By doing this we help our legs, with a little assistance from gravity, to restore circulation and drain the built-up fluid.2,3
3. Use of compression socks:
Wearing compression socks, gloves or stockings is recommended by doctors after the swelling has gone down to prevent swelling in the future. These socks gently squeeze our leg and improve the blood circulation, thus reducing pain and preventing recurrence of swelling. They are not to be too tight and should be worn only till they provide comfort to you.2,3
4. Eating magnesium rich food:
Deficiency of magnesium can lead to water retention and swelling. Therefore, including magnesium rich food in your diet can help reduce swelling of legs. Some magnesium rich foods are2:
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, cashew, peanuts, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds
- Legumes – black beans and lima beans
- Whole grains rich in fibre – quinoa
- Dairy products which are low in fat – milk, yoghurt
- Green leafy vegetables – spinach
- Dark chocolate
5. Increasing water intake:
Our body retains and tries to conserve what it lacks. Decreased water in the body can lead to water retention and swelling. By increasing your water intake, encourage your body to flush out water and with it, the mineral sodium. Sodium loves water and takes away all the excess water with it. Therefore gulping a lot of water helps reduce fluid retention and swelling of legs.2
6. Decreasing our salt intake:
Having salt is tricky. Too much or too little can both cause a lot of trouble. Increased salt intake can lead to water retention, but before coming to conclusions we must consult our physician to know if this is the actual cause. After being absolutely sure, the necessary changes as per the doctor’s recommendation can be made.4
NOTE: We must take extra care of our feet by wearing comfortable shoes, avoid getting cuts or wounds when they are swollen. This is to prevent worsening of the situation, as snugly fit shoes disrupt circulation to the foot and wounds take longer to heal, becoming prone to infections.2,4
When to Seek Medical Help:
Seek medical help under the following circumstances:
- When you have difficulty in breathing and experience shortness of breath1
- When you experience pressure or tightness in your chest along with swelling1
- If you are diagnosed with heart or kidney disease and there is worsening of swelling1
- If you’ve ever had liver disease and are experiencing swelling in legs and abdomen1
- When you have fever along with swollen feet1
- When you notice redness in the swollen foot and it is hot to touch1
- If you are pregnant and the swelling increases rapidly 1
- If you experience increased pain, see blisters developing, find ulcerations or tear over the skin in the swollen area and notice pus draining from it2
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Swellings in legs can be due to various reasons, it can be due to just standing or sitting for a long duration or an indicator of diseases of heart, lungs, etc. Thus, remedies for these also range widely. We can adopt a few lifestyle changes and take care of our feet by performing simple methods like massages, elevation, compression socks, water baths etc. to manage swollen feet. These simple home remedies can prove to be a game changer for you in day-to-day life.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I have swollen feet. Does it mean that I have heart disease?
There are several reasons because of which you can experience welling in your feet. While heart disease is a probable cause, it is not the only reason. You should consult a physician to be sure.4
Can essential oils be used for reducing swelling in legs?
A) Yes. Essential oils help reduce swelling. Oils like lavender oil, peppermint oil, etc. can be used.4
Is swelling of legs during pregnancy dangerous?
A) Mild swelling of legs is seen commonly in pregnancy as the uterus exerts pressure on the blood vessels of the lower parts of the body. However, if sudden or severe swelling of legs is noticed, a doctor should be consulted.4
Is Epsom salt good for reducing swelling?
A) Yes. Soaking legs in an Epsom salt bath is seen to reduce swelling of feet.2
1. Martin LJ, Zieve D. Foot, leg, and ankle swelling. US Natl Libr Med [Internet]. 2015;1. Available from: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003104.htm
2. Cleveland clinic. Botek G. Swollen Feet and Ankles : Treatments to Try. Cleveland clinic. 2021. [Internet]. 2018. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/6-best-ways-relieve-swollen-feet-ankles-home/
3. Press MC. Oedema [Internet]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/edema/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20366532
4. Better Health Channel. Fluid Retention (Oedema). 2017;3–5. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/Fluid-retention-oedema
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.