The warm season is good for the soul. It motivates you to be active outside, enjoy an aperitif at the lake after work and wear light, airy clothes. But not everyone can cope with the high temperatures. Many people complain about swelling in their lower legs and feet during this time of year. Often these accumulations of water are harmless, but if this condition lasts for a long time or is accompanied by pain or color changes, it is necessary to consult a doctor.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is our drainage system and an important part of the immune system. It regulates the interstitial fluid balance and performs specific immunological tasks. Fine lymphatic capillaries collect the tissue fluid and plasma proteins and transport them through the lymphatic nodes for filtration. Then the so-called lymph, flows through the lymphatic ducts until it is finally absorbed back into the blood circulation (in the area of the collarbone). The toxins are then eliminated from the body through the urine.
Why do our feet swell up?
As temperatures rise, the pressure in the blood capillaries increases. This has an impact on the production of tissue fluid and on the function of the lymphatic vessels. When more fluid accumulates, the lymphatic system has to work harder. But when we have to spend eight to nine hours in front of the computer or stand all day, our drainage system reaches its limits. Unlike our blood circulation, which is driven by the heart, the lymphatic system has its own specific transport mechanism. The most important movement is done by our muscles, and therefore by the movement of our body. So, if we sit or stand all day, we lack the most important support of our drainage system and the tissue fluid remains in our intercellular space and causes edema, or so called water retention.
Fighting water retention
As already mentioned, movement plays a major role in preventing unpleasant swelling in the legs. Since our body fluids also drop through gravity, the most important muscle pump is located in our legs.
Simple tricks to activate these muscles in your daily routine:
- climb stairs – the calf muscle is the strongest muscle pump
- whilst sitting at the office table, lift the forefoot off the floor 10-20 times a day – this activates the calf muscles
- if water accumulates in the legs and feet, avoid wearing high heels – they deactivate the calf muscles
- when standing or sitting, compression stockings help against water retention.
- swim – due to the hydrostatic pressure and the simultaneous activity of the muscles, this sport has a similar effect to manual lymphatic drainage.
Manual lymphatic drainage
In order to support and increase the natural lymphatic flow, a manual lymphatic drainage can be performed. Ideally, this therapy is supported by wearing compression tights. After surgery, this therapy is probably the most important post-surgical treatment to increase/improve wound healing. When used after acute injuries, it promotes a faster regeneration.
Advantages of compression tights
Compression thights are not necessarily comfortable to wear in warm weather, but are very effective against heavy legs. Especially if you are sitting or standing often for your work, or have to fly on a regular base, it is recommended to wear these tights. The compression works as an antagonist of the muscle pump, this results in an intense drainage effect. The tights should be put on in the morning, after waking up, because the legs have not been able to store water due to the horizontal position.
Compression tights work and fit best when they are custom-made. In almost all large pharmacies you can visit without an appointment and have your legs measured.
Each year, a pair of compression tights are covered by your health insurance!
Do you have any questions?
For further information please contact Olivia Grace Schürpf.