Even the fittest athletes can develop varicose veins. So, if your clients complain about them, they’re certainly not alone. Nor are these veins an indication of their sessions not working. Varicose veins can affect anyone, and what’s more, they can negatively affect athletic performance, too.
Why Varicose Veins Occur
Varicose veins are inflamed blood vessels that form just under the top layer of the skin’s surface.
Often red, blue, or purplish in coloration, varicose veins typically occur on the lower half of the body, most particularly behind the legs, ankles, and feet. When vein walls weaken and your blood valves aren’t functioning properly, it causes blood to build up in the vein—this is a varicose vein.
These unsightly blood vessels are sometimes accompanied by swelling, itching, aching, or a sense of heaviness around the affected area. Some of the main causes of varicose veins include:
- Aging – Over time, our valves and veins become weaker, causing poor circulation.
- Excess weight – The more weight you carry, the more pressure on your veins.
- Pregnancy – A pregnant woman’s body produces extra blood to support the fetus, which can start to collect at the valves and cause build-up.
- Immobility – Standing or sitting for extensive periods of time slows down blood flow and promotes the development of varicose veins.
- Genetics – Some people are simply more prone to varicose veins than others. Women tend to be more susceptible to them than men.
While varicose veins are often a sign that blood circulation needs improving, they are not necessarily a sign that your health is in danger. Contrary to popular belief, there are no links between varicose veins and heart disease.
The Symptoms and Recognizing Early Stages
Varicose veins can be recognized in a number of different ways. Affected veins often appear to bulge in twisty, rope-like patterns. They are usually purple or blue in coloration, and are visibly raised above the skin. Spider veins are the smaller blood vessels closer to the surface of the skin that become visible, but usually are not raised. Both are signs of veinous insufficiency.
Some of the early stages of varicose veins look like:
- Aching or painful legs
- Swollen feet
- Red or purple spots under the skin
- Unusual pink or red skin pigmentation
Why Athletes May Suffer From Varicose Veins, Too
Even though immobility is often one of the reasons behind varicose veins, you can still develop them if you are very active. Athletes, even professionals, and even fitness enthusiasts can and do still get them just like everyone else. But why?
Athletes who rely on their legs to support their own or additional weight over long periods of time (such as weight-lifting, running, hiking, skiing, or cycling) put a lot of pressure on their veins, which may become vulnerable to the build-up which triggers varicosity.
Whether you’re sitting at a desk all day or spending hours working out or training, blood can still start to pool inside the veins of your lower body and cause internal pressure.
How Unhealthy Veins Can Affect Athletic Performance
Varicose veins can negatively impact physical and athletic performance by decreasing stamina, cause localized pain or itchiness, aggravating leg exhaustion, and causing inflammation.
If an athlete (or just a very active person) develops varicose veins, they’re likely to see a difference in the way they cope with their regular exercise routine. The more intense and repetitive an athlete’s exercise routine is, the more severe their veins may be.
Can They Be Prevented?
While there is no way to 100% guarantee that someone won’t develop varicose veins in the future, there are some simple things anyone can do to reduce the probability. Some of them include:
- Stretching – By increasing mobility and flexibility, one can facilitate better blood flow in the legs and prevent pooling to occur inside veins.
- Cardio – Used in conjunction with stretching, cardio is great for promoting better circulation throughout the body and keeping blood pressure in a balanced place.
- Weight loss – The less weight once carries, the less pressure placed on the veins in your lower body. Committing to some long-term weight loss habits can reduce the likelihood of developing varicose veins.
- Adequate rest – For very active clients, rest might be what they need to slow down the development of varicose veins. After heavy exertion, legs need time to fully recover before going at it again.
- High fiber intake – A high fiber diet means a healthy, regular digestive system. Strain on blood vessels can be reduced by eating foods rich in natural, nutrient-dense fibers. For anyone who may not get enough fiber in their diet, they can consider growing trend of taking supplements and vitamins to improve health and well-being.
How To Self-Treat Varicose Veins
Although there is no cure-all for varicose veins, there are a number of different treatment methods that can help to subdue this kind of affliction, many of which are accessible at home.
Wearing compression stockings is one easy option as the increased pressure improves blood flow and alleviates swelling. Regular swimming is another, as it increases blood circulation throughout your body.
Some people also use plant extracts such as horse chestnut, as it has a toning effect on veins and promotes blood flow.
There are also some treatments that you need to avoid, as although they may offer temporary relief, they can make varicose veins worse in the long run. For example, myofascial release may alleviate the pressure surrounding the veins and stimulate a better flow of blood in the legs. However, as your veins are delicate, the pressure of massage may cause more damage and even cause a vein to burst. Never foam roll over a raised, varicose vein, and make sure your clients know this.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot have a massage, it just means that only very light pressure should be applied, and never directly on the veins themselves.
If your veins are causing irritation, negatively affecting your performance, or are detrimental to your health you can have them removed. There are various options for removal such as laser treatment, sclerotherapy, vein stripping, or ambulatory phlebectomy, all of which are performed by a medical professional.
If your clients (or you!) suffer from varicose or spider veins, maintaining a healthy weight and balancing physical activity and rest are by far the most reliable ways to prevent them from developing. Although they’re something everyone can suffer from, you can do your best to limit them and reduce the impact they have on athletic performance.