Sports and Varicose Veins: the Connection

Runners in the countryside to illustrate sports and varicose veins
November 30, 2022 0 Comments

You decided exercising would be good for your blood circulation and muscles and help prevent those varicose veins you so hate to think about. Makes sense! But now you’re having second thoughts. Could sports and varicose veins be connected in some way?

Is your favorite workout increasing the risk of getting painful and uncomfortable bulging veins in your legs?

The truth is, there can be a connection between sports and varicose veins. But there are many ways to prevent and treat them!

So, in this article, we’ll set your mind at ease by discussing:

  • The connection between sports and varicose veins
  • Early symptoms of varicose veins
  • Prevention tips
  • Treatment options for varicose veins in athletes

The Connection Between Sports and Varicose Veins

You’re mostly right in thinking that varicose veins happen because of unhealthy habits – we stand or sit too long, we don’t exercise or eat well enough. But many active people do get varicose veins. Even world-class athletes, such as Serena Williams, develop those bulging leg veins!

While staying active does help your muscles, veins, and blood circulation to work efficiently, too much of certain physical activities can actually have the opposite effect.

So let’s investigate a bit further why this happens.

Several types of sport put additional pressure on your veins, and thus increase your risk of varicose veins. These include:

  • Sports that put weight on your legs for long periods (for example, weightlifting, skiing, backpacking)
  • Activities involving tight boots (such as skiing or snowboarding)
  • Repetitive-motion activities (for example, running or cycling)
  • Activities that involve sitting for prolonged periods of time (cycling – that’s a double whammy for cycling!)
  • Extreme physical contact sports that can damage vein valves or make existing varicose veins worse (think football, rugby, etc.)
  • Sports with short and rapid stop-start motions – these can surprisingly damage vein valves even though we recommend movement for circulation (think tennis, badminton, basketball, etc.)

However, we don’t recommend stopping your favorite sport simply because varicose veins might appear on the horizon (or rather, in your leg!).

What we recommend is taking note of the following early symptoms so you can judge what’s happening in your body in connection with sports and possible varicose veins.

Early Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Athletes and very active people are used to the pain and cramps that accompany workouts. This means you can often mistake varicose veins symptoms for strained or pulled muscles.

If you’re therefore practicing any of the activities listed above – or similar ones – keep an eye on the early signs of varicose veins:

  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Painful, heavy, or tired legs
  • Itchy, cramping, or throbbing sensations in your legs or feet
  • Blue bulging veins beginning to show in your leg

Sports and Varicose Veins: Prevention Tips

You don’t have to stop doing the sports you love, though. Here are some tips to keep those feared varicose veins at bay!

  • Wear compression socks or stockings during the exercise.
  • Wear sports braces for knees or lumbar for additional support and to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Make sure you wear proper shoes and clothing to provide support and prevent excess stress on your legs and feet.
  • Avoid staying too long in saunas or hot baths – tempting though it is after strenuous exercise!
  • Elevate your feet after exercise to allow the blood to return from the feet and legs to the heart.
  • Don’t forget to include rest days in your routine.
  • Avoid foods high in sodium.
  • Keep a healthy weight and diet for you.

Mix up your workout routine

If you’re not 100% committed to one of those high-impact activities, you can definitely switch up your exercise routine by adding some low-impact to the mix such as

  • yoga,
  • swimming or other water exercises, or
  • walking.

Treatment For Varicose Veins in Athletes

You’ve probably realized that developing varicose veins can hinder your athletic performance.

If you’ve already developed some embryonic ones, or even simply seen worrying signs, head to a specialized vein doctor as soon as possible.

It sounds scary and almost like confirming the worst – but there are many choices of varicose vein removal treatments on the market today. They’re

  • safe,
  • minimally invasive,
  • have quick recovery time, and
  • offer excellent long-term results.

Let’s recap on a few of them.

Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein (ELAS)

This uses an ultrasound-guided laser to remove the damaged veins and redirect the blood flow to healthy veins. There’s a 2-week downtime with this treatment and it’s usually covered by insurance if you meet criteria for your plan.

VenaSeal Closure System

This treatment injects medical adhesive to close varicose veins and reroute blood flow to nearby veins. There’s no downtime with this treatment, allowing you to get back to your sports the next day after treatment. However, it’s not covered by most insurances.

Ambulatory Phlebotomy

This solution removes twisted varicose veins that are on the surface of the legs through small punctures. The procedure is often combined with ELAS. There’s a 2-week downtime with this treatment and it’s usually covered by insurance if you meet criteria for your plan.

Ultrasound Guided Medical Sclerotherapy

Finally, this treatment injects sclerosant solution into the affected veins to close them off. There’s a 1-week downtime with this treatment and it’s sometimes covered by insurance if you meet criteria for your plan.

What Happens if I Don’t Treat Varicose Veins?

As an athlete or sports person, you probably know that blood travels through your arteries to transport the oxygen and glucose you need to your muscles. Veins are what move the waste product (such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide) from your legs to be processed in your lungs and kidneys.

That’s why you hear more about veins than arteries! They play a significant part in keeping your sports life up to scratch.

However, the bad news is, varicose veins impair this flow – which means there’s not enough oxygen and glucose in your muscles, and too much waste.

This can directly affect your performance and increase the risk of you sustaining a muscle injury. That’s why you’re absolutely right to be querying the connection between sports and possible varicose veins – and whether you can leave them untreated.

The answer is no. Varicose veins don’t disappear on their own. Leaving them untreated (especially while continuing to do sports) can have serious consequences. If you practice a lot of sports, and varicose veins are starting to show, it’s time to act.

Enhance Your Athletic Performance With a Denver Vein

Bulging veins in legs are unsightly, unhealthy, and uncomfortable – and hinder your athletic performance and stamina.

If you’re into sports and looking to prevent or treat varicose veins, Denver Vein Center can help you. We offer a variety of treatments to help you get rid of varicose veins and achieve beautiful healthy legs.

Contact us today for an appointment.

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Article Name
Sports and Varicose Veins: the Connection
Several sports put pressure on your veins. Learn how to judge what’s happening in connection with sports and varicose veins – and avoid it!