Image of woman elevating legs

You may have heard that elevation is one of the best and quickest ways to provide relief when blood backs up in aching legs and feet. But how do you make it work in the busy modern world?

What is Elevation?

Elevation refers to lifting your legs above your heart by resting them up a wall or on a chair, ottoman, or stack of pillows. This reverses the flow of blood from the lower legs and feet, draining back toward the heart.

You can elevate your legs while laying or sitting down, and will probably find that there are certain times you must do it throughout the day—after long periods of standing and when you take your compression stockings off at night, for example.

How Do You Elevate?

The best way to get a full elevation is to lay on the floor or your bed, scoot as close to the wall or headboard as possible, and then rest your legs up the wall. This full elevation should be done at least once a day when you remove your compression stockings, but you may find that you need it more often.

There are also certain yoga poses that provide full elevation, such as shoulder stand, headstand, and handstand, in order from easiest to most advanced.

But neither of these options are very realistic when you’re at the office or out in public.


Other Ways to Elevate

If you are sitting at a chair or desk, rest your feet on another chair, foot stool, or stack of pillows, rather than resting them on the floor, which will cause the blood to pool.

When eating out at restaurants, try to sit across from an empty chair to rest your feet on, or choose a booth.

If you find that you need to elevate while out or on the road, scoot your driver’s seat back as far as it will go, lay back and rest your legs on your steering wheel.

If you have the flexibility, you can elevate while sitting upright by bringing your knee toward your chest, grabbing your ankle with both hands, and straightening your leg as far upward as it will go. Hold this pose for as long as is comfortable and then switch legs. This might get you some funny looks in public, but can also be done sitting in a bathroom stall.

If you are laying down in bed, place one or many pillows under the top sheet down by your feet, where you can comfortably rest them. This creates a slight incline that will help while you sleep.


Enjoy Your Elevation Time

It can be very hard to adjust to elevating every day. Especially for full elevation, you have to stop what you’re doing, find a spot to lay down, and then be still for 10-20 minutes. This is a great time to give your body and mind rest, but you have to make it feel enjoyable instead of like a punishment.

Find a spot in your home where you most like to elevate. Is there a certain wall or spot of carpet you like best? Do you prefer to elevate up your headboard in bed? Lay out a blanket, pillows, or a mat to make sure your spot is comfortable.

Then, make sure you have a good book or music within reach of your spot—this will really help you feel more excited about elevating. I’ve tried writing in a journal or typing on a laptop in an elevated position, but it’s too difficult and causes your wrists to get sore quickly.

If you are in the middle of something important and you need to work, using voice-to-text or a dictation software can help keep your momentum going.

At least some of the time, try doing nothing while you elevate. Close your eyes and take deep, even breaths, or try clearing your mind and meditating for a while. Sometimes, a little break from everything is exactly what our bodies need most.


What If Elevating Doesn’t Help?

Here’s a question I never thought about until I experienced it myself. Sometimes, elevating doesn’t make the pain go away. In fact, for some reason, in certain instances it seems to make it worse.

If you have been elevating for too long, your feet will start to tingle and fall asleep. This is a good sign that it’s time to let the blood flow in the other direction again.

If you just started elevating and it seems like the pain is getting worse, try rotating or pumping your ankles. This motion helps to unblock the flow of blood and get it moving again.

I also find that sometimes it feels better to put my feet at a right angle against the wall instead of straight up and down. It also sometimes helps to start with them up the wall and then let them fall to the sides in a straddle position, or to fold them in a cross-legged position against the wall.

Do you have questions about elevating your legs or treating that heavy, aching feeling that often accompanies vein disease? Talk to a specialist today. Call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bunker.

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