16 Effective Home Remedies For Swollen Feet Kushneet Kukreja Hyderabd040-395603080 April 12, 2019
You sit down after a long and tiring day. You look at your feet and see that they have become the size of an elephant’s. Amazing feeling, isn’t it? Ok, enough with the sarcasm. Obviously, nobody wants to have swollen and sore feet, no matter what time of the day it is.
Anything from long, tiring days to wearing high heels can trigger the swelling in your feet. This swelling is adamant; it takes a few days to go away and interrupts your day-to-day schedule. It’s time you stop suffering silently and stop treating this as a ‘not serious’ medical condition. A few hours of rest don’t always work in reducing the swelling. Here’s where our article will help you out.
If you have recurrent swollen feet and this is not due to any serious medical condition, you can opt for many home remedies to reduce the swelling, soreness, pain, and also relax your mind. Before we go into details about the remedies, let us understand this condition a little better.
- What Are Swollen Feet?
- How To Reduce And Treat Swelling In Feet Naturally
- Home Remedies For Swollen Feet
- 1. Epsom Salt
- 2. Tonic Water
- 3. Contrast Baths
- 4. Baking Soda
- 5. Essential Oil Soak
- 6. Lemon Solution
- 7. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 8. Parsley
- 9. Barley Water
- 10. Coriander Seeds
- 11. Ginger Essential Oil
- 12. Grapefruit Oil
- 13. Ice Pack
- 14. Dandelion Tea
- 15. Cucumber
- 16. Cabbage Leaves
- Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
- What Do Hot and Cold Water Entail?
- When Should You Use Cold Water Therapy?
- How Do You Use Cold Water Therapy?
- Here is what you do to achieve the best results.
- When Should You Use Hot Water Therapy?
- How Do You Use Hot Water Therapy?
- Why Doesn’t Hot Water Help?
- Heat or Ice for Foot Pain?
- Ice Bags
- Cold Massage
- Ice Bath
- Moist Heat
- Leg Edema
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:
- Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
- Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Return to the emergency department if:
- Further information
- Learn more about Leg Edema (Aftercare Instructions)
- Pregnancy and Swollen Feet
- Why Does It Happen?
- When Does the Swelling Typically Start?
- How Can I Reduce the Swelling?
- When Do I Need to Worry?
- When Will the Swelling Go Away?
- Don’t Let the Swelling Get You Down
- Swollen legs and ankles affect safety and quality of life
- How exercise reduces swelling in legs and ankles
- Safety first: get the doctor’s approval
- 3 simple home exercises for swollen legs and ankles
- What’s causing those swollen feet?
- Perhaps you’re just on your feet a lot, but the swelling also could signal a potentially serious condition.
- Vascular causes
- Other causes
- What you should do
- Should You Ice or Heat an injury?
- 5 Methods to Reduce Swelling From an Injury
- How to Reduce Swelling After an Injury
- Reducing Swelling from Specific Injuries
What Are Swollen Feet?
Medically, any swelling in the body is called edema. When the body fluids accumulate in one part of the body, in this case, the feet, they become swollen. This swelling can or cannot be accompanied by pain, and it depends on the cause of the swelling (1, 2).
Here are some easy remedies and practices you can adopt to get rid of swollen feet right in the comfort of your home. They are all easy to do and very cost-effective. Most of them use equipment and cures that are found in every home.
How To Reduce And Treat Swelling In Feet Naturally
- Epsom Salt
- Tonic Water
- Contrast Baths
- Baking Soda
- Essential Oil Soak
- Lemon Solution
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Barley Water
- Coriander Seeds
- Ginger Essential Oil
- Grapefruit Oil
- Ice Pack
- Dandelion Tea
- Cabbage Leaves
Home Remedies For Swollen Feet
1. Epsom Salt
You Will Need
- 1/2 cup Epsom salt
- A bucket or tub
- Warm water
Note: Depending on the level of swelling, you could add up to 2 cups of Epsom salt per bath.
What You Have To Do
- Fill half the bucket with warm water.
- Add salt to it and mix well.
- Soak your swollen feet in this saline solution for 10-15 minutes.
You can also use common salt instead of Epsom salt.
How Often You Should Do This
You can try this remedy any time you experience swelling. It is best done at night before retiring to bed.
Why This Works
This is probably the most common remedy for tired and swollen feet. Epsom salt contains crystals of hydrated magnesium sulfate. These are very useful in curing muscle soreness and will give you immediate relief (3).
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2. Tonic Water
- Tonic water
- A tub
1. Fill the tub with enough tonic water to cover your entire foot (or feet). The tonic water should be cool or at room temperature.
2. Soak the affected foot in this water for 10-15 minutes.
3. Rinse the area using regular water later.
Use this if you have swollen feet and have tonic water handy at home.
For those of you living in the medical Dark Age, tonic water is carbonated water to which a little quinine has been added. Initially used as a cure for malaria, tonic water is also a good way to reduce the swelling of the feet. The quinine acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and the fizz in the carbonated water is a great relaxant (4).
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3. Contrast Baths
- Hot water
- Cold water
- 2 buckets
1. Fill half a bucket with hot water and half of the second bucket with cold water.
2. Soak your feet in the hot water bucket first for 10 minutes.
3. Switch to the cold water bucket for another 10-12 minutes.
4. Switch back to the hot water one last time. This time, soak your feet for five minutes.
A single routine of contrast bath will give you a lot of relief from the swelling.
This is another way to alleviate swelling of the feet, and it uses the easiest of all mediums – water. One of the best natural remedies for swollen feet. The different temperatures of water work by encouraging better blood circulation in the feet (5, 6). As a bonus, you get some free time to read, listen to music, meditate or just chill!
Do not use scalding hot water.
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4. Baking Soda
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons rice water
1. Boil rice and use the starchy water that you get once the rice is almost cooked.
2. Mix the baking soda with the rice water to make a paste.
3. Apply it over your feet and keep it on for 10-15 minutes.
4. Rinse your feet with water and moisturize them to keep them soft.
You can also take a larger quantity of this paste, add some water to it and soak your feet in it.
Use this paste as a quick remedy to reduce the swelling in your feet.
This simple, unassuming ingredient has many remedial benefits. The baking soda in this mix possesses anti-inflammatory properties (7). In combination with the rice water, it absorbs the excess water that has accumulated in the feet. This remedy also improves blood circulation in the affected area.
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5. Essential Oil Soak
- 3-4 drops eucalyptus oil
- 3-4 drops peppermint oil
- 3-4 drops lemon essential oil
- ½ bucket warm water
1. Pour the essential oils in the water and stir well. You can add ½ cup to 2 cups of Epsom salts to the soak to increase anti-inflammatory effects.
2. Soak your feet in this blend for 15 minutes.
3. Remove your feet from the water and pat them dry.
Repeat this remedy once every day until the swelling goes away.
Essential oils have nothing to do with the word ‘important’; they mean that the oils contain the ‘essence’ of a particular plant. Besides alleviating the swelling in the feet, the combination of essential oils used in this remedy also acts as a natural relaxant through its beautiful aroma (8, 9, 10).
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6. Lemon Solution
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon milk
1. Mix the ingredients to get a paste-y liquid.
2. Apply it all over your swollen feet.
3. Leave it on for a couple of hours. This remedy is best used as an overnight solution for swollen feet.
Do this before hitting the bed and have soft and swelling-free feet by the morning.
Lemon is commonly used both internally and externally for its anti-inflammatory properties (11). Cinnamon and olive oil also help in reducing swelling as they possess similar properties like lemon (12, 13). Olive oil will also nourish the skin on your feet and make it soft (14). Your feet will soak up all of these beneficial ingredients, and you will wake up without any swelling or stiffness.
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7. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 cups warm water
- 2-3 cups cold water
- A towel
1. Mix half cup of ACV with warm water and the remaining half cup with cold water in separate bowls.
2. Soak the towel in the warm water first, wring out the excess, and wrap this around the swollen foot.
3. Leave the towel on until it comes down to room temperature.
4. Repeat the wrap with the cold water-vinegar mix. Leave this wrap on for about five minutes.
You can repeat this process once again after a couple of hours if the swelling does not subside.
Strange, but true. Apple cider vinegar, when applied to swollen feet and ankles, can provide immediate relief. The vinegar has an effective fluid absorption action, which makes the feet lose excess fluid build-up (15). Once the excess fluid is gone, the swelling and stiffness will vanish. This is one of the best swollen ankle remedies.
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- 1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
- A cup of hot water
1. Steep the leaves in hot water a couple of times.
2. Strain and drink while the tea is warm.
Drink two to three cups of this herbal tea in a day.
If fluid retention is the culprit behind your swollen feet, you can bust it with this herb. Parsley is a natural diuretic, which will help the body expel the excess fluid that has accumulated in your feet. Parsley also has anti-inflammatory properties (16).
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9. Barley Water
- A handful of barley grains
- 1-2 cups water
1. Boil barley until the water takes on a light brown hue.
2. Strain and cool this solution.
3. Consume it either at room temperature or after cooling it in the refrigerator.
Consume 1-2 glasses per day.
I know it doesn’t really taste good, but this mixture is a wonderful diuretic. Barley helps the body wash out toxins that have built up due to fluid retention and brings down edema in the feet (17).
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10. Coriander Seeds
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 cup water
1. Boil the seeds in water until it reduces to half of its original volume.
2. Strain and drink this infusion.
You can also soak the coriander seeds in warm water for some time and grind them to make a paste. Apply this paste on the affected area a couple of times, and see the swelling go down in no time.
Drink this twice a day.
Being a diuretic, coriander will help the body easily eliminate the excess fluid in the swollen feet (18). The edema will go down once this happens and give you relief.
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11. Ginger Essential Oil
- A few drops of ginger essential oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of carrier oil (Olive oil, jojoba oil or coconut oil)
1. Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil.
2. Massage your feet gently with this blend for 5-10 minutes.
3. Leave the oil on overnight.
Do this before you go to bed.
This oil contains the benefits of ginger without that sting. Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties. It improves circulation and also eases cramping caused by swollen feet (19, 20).
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12. Grapefruit Oil
- 4-5 drops grapefruit oil
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Mix the oils and massage the affected area with the mixture.
2. Leave it on overnight.
Repeat this every night until the swelling subsides.
This essential oil is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent because of its diuretic properties. It also possesses antimicrobial properties (21).
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13. Ice Pack
1. Place the ice pack for 10-12 minutes on the swollen area.
2. If you do not have an ice pack at home, you can make one with some ice cubes and a wet towel. Place the cubes on the towel, wrap it around and use it.
Repeat the application of the ice pack after a few hours if the swelling does not subside.
Tried and trusted, our ever-faithful ice pack can help here too! The cold temperature of the ice pack alters the blood flow, which reduces swelling and pain (22). This is also one of the most effective home remedies for swollen feet.
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14. Dandelion Tea
- 1 tablespoon dandelion herb
- A cup of boiling water
1. Make dandelion tea by adding the herb to boiling water and allowing it to steep for a while.
2. This tea is most effective if you have it while it is warm.
Have 1-2 cups per day till you find relief from foot edema.
This amazing herb has pretty good effects on swollen feet. Dandelion has water expulsive properties and is also rich in antioxidants (23). It alleviates inflammation in any part of the body effectively.
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- A cucumber
1. Cut the cucumber into thin slices.
2. Place these slices on your feet and cover them with a loose bandage.
3. Remove the bandage after 20-30 minutes and see the difference.
You can also extract the juice of cucumber, add it to water and apply it to your feet to get similar results.
You can use this remedy any time you experience swollen feet.
The very name is soothing, isn’t it? Cucumber has amazing soothing properties that will reduce edema and stiffness and make relieve your swollen feet (24).
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16. Cabbage Leaves
- White or green cabbage
1. Take cabbage leaves, wipe them clean, but do not wash them. You may experience more relief if the leaves have been cooled in the fridge (but not frozen).
2. Place them on your swollen feet or tie them there with a loose bandage.
3. Remove the leaves after 30 minutes.
Do this again after 3-4 hours if required.
Even though this remedy sounds peculiar, it is definitely one of the best ones for swollen feet. Cabbage has great water absorption qualities and will draw out excess fluid in the feet. It also has anti-inflammatory and healing properties (25).
Most or all of these remedies might work for you. However, merely using these home remedies isn’t enough. You also need to give your feet ample rest to reduce the swelling. If you don’t take adequate care, you might fall victim to painful cramps, and the edema might even spread to the legs and knees.
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Let us now look at some commonly asked questions.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Symptoms Of Swollen Feet
Apart from the main symptom of edema or swelling, which causes an increase in the foot and ankle size, the following symptoms can also be seen.
- Pain in the affected area
- Color changes in the skin
- Skin texture changes
- Skin becomes warm and tender
- Pus drainage
These additional symptoms depend on the underlying cause of the edema (26).
Tips To Help Soothe Swollen Feet
- Elevate To Alleviate The Swelling – This is something you can try while sitting at work or lying down in bed at home. When at work, prop up your feet on a stool and keep flexing the ankles at regular intervals. When you are in the comfort of your bed, try elevating your feet to the point where they are at least a foot above the heart’s level. Prop them on a cushion or the wall for 5-10 minutes. I have tried it many times, and it is immensely and immediately relieving.
- Check What You Eat – The edema in your feet could very possibly be caused due to poor eating habits. Make sure you include a lot of magnesium in your diet as it improves circulation. Also, avoid foods high in sodium content as it is known to be water retentive. Avoid all inflammatory foods such as sugar, wheat, grains, dairy, corn, and soy.
- Have Enough Water – Stay as hydrated as possible. Don’t skip those 8-10 glasses of water that every website on healthy living screams about. Protein and uric acid build up in the body, cause foot swelling, and can be washed out by proper hydration.
- Shop For Better Shoes – If you have constant swelling in your feet, it might be due to the wrong footwear. Switch to cushioned shoes that provide enough support to the arches of your feet and send your feet to foot heaven! Opt for low-heeled sandals and also avoid tying your shoelaces too tightly. These will greatly benefit your sore feet.
- Banish The C-A-C – Okay, I just made up that code! It simply stands for Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Caffeine. Removing these three addictive elements from your lifestyle really helps in reducing foot edema, if nothing else. These three create water retention in the body. Whenever fluids build up, they mostly travel to the feet. A good reason to think about quitting now, isn’t it?
- Vitamin E Is The Key – Ensure you take extra amounts of foods rich in vitamin E – the beauty vitamin. Foods such as green leafy vegetables, almonds, pistachios, and sweet potatoes are replete with this vitamin. It is useful in alleviating swelling and stiffness of the feet (27).
How To Relieve Swollen Feet During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, it is important that your feet get enough rest. The tips mentioned above, such as propping your feet up, work well in reducing the swelling. You can also use any of the home remedies listed in this article and get quick relief. Some of the most effective ones are Epsom salt, contrast baths, ice pack, and essential oil soak.
If you are planning to use any of the remedies that require you to ingest anything, such as barley water or dandelion tea, please consult your doctor before doing so.
Swollen Feet: Why Does This Happen?
Why is it that your feet are constantly swollen after a day of work or some walking? Some reasons are pretty simple. However, others require some attention. Here is a list to see if your case of swollen feet matches any of these causes:
- Standing Too Long: A long period of standing (or sitting) is the most common and simple cause of swollen feet.
- Injury: If you have sustained an ankle or foot injury recently, you can develop swollen feet for weeks afterwards.
- High Impact Activities: Extreme sports, running, etc. can all be probable causes for swollen feet, especially if you are ill-trained for them.
- Obesity: Well, the feet do carry a whole lot of extra weight; this is their way of complaining!
- Excessive Intake Of Salt And Alcohol: Both of these cause water retention and swollen feet.
- Some Medications: A few medications for diabetes, birth control, depression, etc. enlist edema of the feet as one of their possible side effects. Check with your doctor.
Besides these, some underlying medical conditions, such as arthritis, thyroid problems, allergic reactions, varicose veins, venous insufficiency, and lymphatic obstruction, may also trigger swelling (or edema) in the feet.
Swollen Feet: Who Is At Risk?
If you belong to any or many of the following categories, you are most susceptible to swelling in the feet and/or ankles. Check if you are
- Above age 45
- Pregnant (in the third trimester)
- A laxatives/diuretics user
Swollen Feet: When To Seek Medical Help?
Most cases of edema in the feet go away after a little bit of rest and elevating the feet. However, you must consider consulting a doctor if the swelling has started interfering with your normal day-to-day activities. If you develop pain, high temperature, local heat and redness, it is wise to mention this to your doctor.
CAUTION: Pregnant women who develop infrequent urination, vomiting or nausea, blurred vision, and/or abdominal pain, along with foot edema, must rush to the doctor as it can indicate a life-threatening complication – preeclampsia.
There are many alternative therapies like acupressure, acupuncture, and homeopathy for swollen feet. It is best to go for a treatment plan (or solution) that is safe for use and will not give you any side effects. Natural remedies are the best options that easily fulfill this criteria and produce long-lasting results.
For most people, these home remedies have helped them to get back on their feet in a jiffy! So, what are you waiting for? Try these remedies and see the results for yourself.
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She is a Biotechnologist, what we in normal English would call Scientist. While she is an expert in experimenting, she also holds an exceptional talent in juggling words and churning out content with just the right amount of sass added to it. When not saving the world with her articles, she likes to hang around with her Siberian Husky (because, aren’t dogs the best?). In her spare time, she likes a little ‘jibber-jabber, full of chatter’ time with her friends. So, what gives her the energy to do all this? If you ask her, she would say,”My cup of sanity – an extra large mug of coffee!”
Our busy schedules are inevitable, but we sometimes succumb to injuries in the process. Among other parts of our bodies, our feet get injuries and suffer from sore feet. When treated wrongly, these injuries can get quite debilitating. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 60,000-foot injuries occurs every year, leading to failure to attend work. Also, acute ankle sprains consist of over 3% of the total visits in the hospitals’ emergency rooms in the US. Fortunately, most of these cases are usually mild or moderate and get cured with hot or cold water therapy.
But many people get confused about what treatment to go for between the two to cure their sole feet. Luckily, this article will give insight into the hot and cold water therapy. In addition, questions like what both hot and cold water therapy entail, when and how one should use them, and their benefits will get discussed. You may need to continue reading if you are searching for the knowledge on the same.
Though the only remedy you require to treat a sore foot is cold or hot water therapy, you also need enough rest and peace of mind. Also, compared to the over-the-counter analgesics, either of these two gets preferred depending on the injury. What confuses people is the failure to identify when to use either hot or cold water therapy in treating their injured feet. Mostly, they cannot identify situations when to use or avoid either of the treatments. We shall look into conditions ideal and unfavorable to use both therapies. But first, let’s discuss what hot and cold water therapy entails.
What Do Hot and Cold Water Entail?
The main reason why people use either hot or cold water therapy is to reduce pain symptoms by modulating the circulation of the local tissue. Also, they help in releasing the natural pain mediators of your body. But other pain-relieving medications temporarily alter the tissues’ biochemical environment when they exert their action. Generally, both get regarded as to offer the same benefit, but it’s not the case. They differ by acting opposite of each other, but depending on how they get used, they can be beneficial or cause more harm. What’s impressive is the fact that both hot and cold water therapies come with other benefits not found with other pain-relieving medications. Are you eager to know? No need to worry; they include the following;
- Control of the tissue damage or process of injury
- They restore tissues and joints flexibility and normal mobility.
- Facilitates the recovery processes and normal healing
- Reduces the swelling of the soft tissues
Both hot and cold water therapies are ideal to use but in specific situations. Let’s look at the incidences someone can use cold therapy.
When Should You Use Cold Water Therapy?
Cold water therapy works when used on acute traumas caused by severe swelling or bruises. Majority of the acute trauma cases get connected to extreme pain that always occurs instantaneously. When you twist your ankle, sprain your soft tissue, or hit your foot or ankle with something heavy, you should perform a cold water therapy. It will work wonders! Cold water therapy acts by making the blood vessels constrict. As a result, internal blood loss and bleeding get minimized.
Also, the sensory fibers get numbed when exposed to cold temperatures. Because of the numbness, the discomfort and pain sensation get reduced. A cold temperature exposure through cold compresses or ice packs also helps reduce the swelling and irritation. One is then able to gain joint motion and normal mobility. If you are wondering how cold water therapy get used, check out herein below;
How Do You Use Cold Water Therapy?
You can use the following ways to apply cold water therapy:
- Ice-cold water. Ideal for compresses
- Ice-cold water
- Ice bags
- Clay or ordinary bags full of chilled, frozen peas.
Here is what you do to achieve the best results.
- Take a cold wrap or compress and apply to the affected or injured area for about 5 – 10 minutes per interval. Ensure you take small breaks within the therapy sessions so that the tissues can revert to their normal temperature.
- The ice bag shouldn’t get applied directly to your skin, wrap it using a thin towel.
- Ensure to begin the therapy immediately after the injury. Then continue for 3-to-5 days at regular intervals.
Similar to the cold water therapy, you don’t just decide to jump into applying a hot water therapy on your sore feet. The injury or pain must get suitable to treat or manage with hot water. The following are situations when hot water therapy is ideal to use. You may also check here our guide on best foot bath for sore feet.
When Should You Use Hot Water Therapy?
Feet experiencing chronic injuries with tension, residual pain, or stiffness get ideal for treating with hot water. Unlike cold water therapy, injuries without bruises get managed best by the hot water therapy. It acts as follows on the injured foot;
- It improves the circulation of the tissues to ensure rapid healing and regeneration of the stiff or inflamed tissues.
- Improving the tissues’ basal metabolism and facilitating elasticity of the stiff or inflamed joints.
Unfortunately, you may be aware of the situation to use hot water therapy but don’t know how to go on with the process. No need to fret; check out the following;
How Do You Use Hot Water Therapy?
First, ensure the condition you want to treat on your foot is ideal for hot water therapy. Such conditions include:
- Various forms of arthritis
- Chronic pains
- Tissue injuries
When hot water therapy gets done before a highly, vigorous, and demanding physical activity, it reduces the soft tissue swelling and pain risk. You get to apply it through:
- Hot water bottles
- Soaking the feet for 10 -20 minutes in warm water
- Heat pads
- Hot water dipped in a towel
- Hot tub
- Hot shower
The above methods offer soothing relief from aches and pain. But if your pain persists, worsens, or is severe, seek medical attention immediately. Also, if in doubt, consult a doctor. But sometimes hot water therapy does not help. Here are the reasons why.
You may also check here the benefits of salt from the dead sea.
Why Doesn’t Hot Water Help?
Concerning running, one should bath first with hot water and use cold water after the run. You may wonder why. It is because after running for long, your joints invariably suffer from inflammation caused by the impact. When your body responses to the stress exerted physically, it suffers from a condition known as inflammation. The causes may be as a result of injury, extreme activity, or infection.
The tissues become porous while the blood vessels swell due to the immune system getting triggered after an inflammation occurs. As a result, the cells responsible for protection get allowed around the injured area. Though the effect targets to repair the damaged cells, sometimes it causes pain, swelling, and redness. If you are an athlete, don’t enhance this negative effect by soaking or bathing in cold water. Instead, encourage the vessels around the injured part to constrict by cooling the affected area. In return, the pain and swelling will disappear.
Hot water baths are ideal for warming up painful muscles, stiffness, and joints. You may wonder how it loosens stiff joints, muscles, and joints. It is when a hot water therapy get combined with stretching. It works like magic in relieving the stiffness by improving the overall mobility. It is best suited for people with fibromyalgia. Also, active runners who train every day and suffers from aches and pre-run tightness benefit from a hot water bath.
Heat or Ice for Foot Pain?
Both the hot and cold water therapies are ideal for treating sore feet. As explained above, you only need to identify what injury suits either of the treatment. If you use a hot water bath on a sore foot instead of a cold water bath and vice versa, the results may get drastic. You may end up hurting yourself more. But with the knowledge gained from the above details, you can now apply your sore feet in hot or cold water effectively.
The American Podiatric Medical Association estimates that in just an average day of walking, several hundred tons of pressure are exerted upon your feet. Inflammation and pain in the feet can result from this continuous and excessive force. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that at least 75 percent of the U.S. population will experience foot pain at some time in their lives. Ill-fitting shoes, certain medical conditions (including diabetes, pregnancy and obesity), high-impact exercise, or a combination of any of these are the primary causes of foot pain. Knowing the source of your pain is the first step in treating it, as certain conditions, including fallen arches, broken bones, arthritis and gout, require medical help.
Cold therapy, known as cryotherapy, can reduce inflammation and pain. Edema, the medical term for swelling, occurs when excess liquid becomes trapped between the body’s cells. Cryotherapy reduces the flow of liquid to the area where it is applied and inhibits nerve cells’ ability to “fire” off pain signals. One method includes filling a sandwich bag with ice cubes, covering the affected area with a thin towel, and holding the bag to the feet for up to 20 minutes. If your skin begins to numb, remove the bag before the time completes.
This method adds the element of massage to cryotherapy. Massage increases blood flow, stimulates the nervous system and promotes relaxation. Fill a paper cup with water and place it in the freezer. Once the water has fully frozen, simply peel back the top of the cup until the top of the ice is revealed. Use this to massage over and around the tender and swollen areas of the foot. Take care not to press too deeply and keep the ice moving to avoid frostbite. Cold massage offers an inexpensive, easy fix, combines two recognized treatments for pain and swelling, and allows you to cover a larger surface area.
This method allows you to treat both feet at once and only requires a bucket or foot bath, water and ice. Fill the foot bath with enough water to cover both feet. Add ice and soak feet for up to 20 minutes. Once feet begin to feel numb, remove them from the bath.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends massage to relieve pain. Care should be taken not to massage areas inflamed as a result of injury, however. Inflammation that results from simply standing too long, wearing ill-fitting shoes or from high impact exercise can benefit from a foot massage. A small amount of lotion or massage oil should be applied when massaging feet to prevent dragging skin. Apply even pressure to the feet using your thumbs and knuckles. Again, this is an easy fix and can be self-applied. The Merck Manual especially recommends massage because, in addition to relieving pain and swelling, massage helps to loosen tight tissues.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends RICE for swollen feet that hurt. RICE, an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, addresses one of the causes of swollen feet, fluid buildup. Elevating the feet, even for short periods of time, allows the body to drain excess fluids from the area, thereby decreasing swelling and the attendant pain it causes.
As long as your feet are not injured, bruised or cut, moist heat can ease pain and tension. Simply wet two towels with warm water and wrap these around feet. The Arthritis Association notes that heat relaxes muscles and stimulates circulation. Care should be taken not to use water that is too hot as heat can increase swelling.
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Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Sep 24, 2019.
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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Leg edema is swelling caused by fluid buildup. Your legs may swell if you sit or stand for long periods of time, are pregnant, or are injured. Swelling may also occur if you have heart failure or circulation problems. This means that your heart does not pump blood through your body as it should.
- Elevate your legs: Raise your legs above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your legs on pillows or blankets to keep them elevated comfortably.
- Wear pressure stockings: These tight stockings put pressure on your legs to promote blood flow and prevent blood clots. Wear the stockings during the day. Do not wear them while you sleep.
- Apply heat: Heat helps decrease pain and swelling. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
- Stay active: Do not stand or sit for long periods of time. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
- Eat healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet. Limit salt. Salt will make your body hold even more fluid.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever or feel more tired than usual.
- The veins in your legs look larger than usual. They may look full or bulging.
- Your legs itch or feel heavy.
- You have red or white areas or sores on your legs. The skin may also appear dimpled or have indentations.
- You are gaining weight.
- You have trouble moving your ankles.
- The swelling does not go away, or other parts of your body swell.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You cannot walk.
- You feel faint or confused.
- Your skin turns blue or gray.
- Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may be swollen and red.
- You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is worse when you lie down.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
- You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may also cough up blood.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Learn more about Leg Edema (Aftercare Instructions)
- Fluid Retention
IBM Watson Micromedex
- Swollen Ankle Joint
- Swollen Hip Joint
Pregnancy and Swollen Feet
During pregnancy, you can experience aches, pains, and other discomforts that may affect you from head to toe, including swollen feet. Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce swollen feet during pregnancy.
Swollen Feet: Why It Happens in Pregnancy
“Feet tend to swell during pregnancy because of the increased body weight and body mass,” says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in private practice in Louisville, Ky. “The feet are the most dependent part of the body. The body is just not accustomed to” the extra weight.
In addition to the added weight of your unborn baby, your body retains 50 percent more fluid than it normally needs during pregnancy. All that extra fluid has to settle somewhere, and it often ends up in your feet. Swelling in the feet may also be caused by:
- Too much salt in your diet
- Drinking too much caffeine
- Not enough potassium in your diet
- Standing or walking too long
- Hot weather
Ways to Soothe and Prevent Puffy Pregnancy Feet
Some swelling during pregnancy is natural and can’t be avoided. But if you’re not careful, your feet can swell to the point where your skin becomes tight and painful. Drinking plenty of water and limiting salt and caffeine intake can help ward off swollen feet, but standing on them for too long is sure to lead to swelling.
“The best thing pregnant women can do is get their feet up and sit down,” says Dr. Mauser. Women concerned about the severity of their swollen feet can also “see a podiatrist, or they can discuss it with their ob-gyn.” Additionally, Mauser suggests women wear compression stockings to prevent excessive swelling.
Using ice to soothe swollen feet is also a good home remedy to rely on during pregnancy. Adriana Godsey, a mother of two from Columbus, Ohio, faithfully used this strategy to deal with her swollen feet when she was pregnant.
“It was so painful that I would have to sit at home on the floor with my feet up with ice packs around them. But then the icing would help bring the swelling down,” Godsey recalls. “It would flare up any time I was standing up for too long or walking around for too long. Toward the end of the pregnancy it was pretty awful.”
While Godsey admits that the swelling was extremely uncomfortable and even painful at times, she didn’t bring it up with her doctor; like many women, it simply wasn’t the most pressing matter on her mind. “It just didn’t seem like that big a deal. Feet were ranking low on the list. When you’re pregnant, you’re trying to make sure the baby’s developing properly … your feet are not your highest concern. I thought, I’ll just go home and elevate and ice them,” Godsey says.
Don’t Let Your Feet Suffer
Pregnancy can be uncomfortable in general, but discomfort due to swollen feet can be alleviated. Don’t suffer unnecessarily. Here are some tips to help ease swollen feet.
- Prop up your feet. When your feet first start to swell, take a rest and put your feet up. Just sitting isn’t good enough — elevate those tootsies.
- Cool them down. Place a cold towel or ice pack on your swollen feet.
- Drink water. It may be counterintuitive, but drinking enough water can actually help flush excess fluids out of the body.
- Avoid salty foods. High-sodium foods can cause your body to hold onto fluid. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables without added salt.
- Change your shoes. Choose footwear that is soft, comfortable, and won’t squeeze your swollen feet.
- Go for a swim. If you can, swim for exercise to help lessen the pressure on your feet.
- Stay inside. If possible, remain indoors on extremely hot days.
Swollen feet don’t have to slow you down during your pregnancy. While it’s natural to experience a little discomfort, you don’t have to suffer. So stop swelling in its tracks with a few dietary changes and give your feet a much-deserved break when swelling does occur. It’s a good excuse to rest, relax, and savor some quiet moments before your baby arrives.
Pregnant and feeling puffy? Suddenly can’t seem to squeeze into your shoes? Are you in desperate need of ways to reduce the swelling, so it doesn’t look like you have cankles?
Swelling of the feet and ankles can be a strange, but totally normal part of pregnancy. And, while it can be quite uncomfortable, there are things you can do to get some relief. But there are also times when swelling can be a red flag there’s a more serious problem going on.
Let’s learn more about the causes of swelling during pregnancy, when it typically starts and ends, how you can get some relief, and when you should be concerned.
Why Does It Happen?
Normal swelling during pregnancy, also called edema, occurs for several reasons but is typically from the additional blood and fluids your body likes to hang onto to support your growing uterus, placenta, and baby. Nearly 25 percent of the weight gained during your pregnancy is from all these extra fluids.
Now that you’re expecting, you have 50 percent more blood and fluids in your body, but it needs to be stored somewhere, hence your new cankles. Your growing uterus also puts pressure on your veins, impairing the return of blood to your heart, so it tends to pool in your hands, feet, and ankles (1).
And while fluid retention can be quite the nuisance, it plays a vital role during pregnancy, as it softens your body, allowing it to expand as your baby grows. It also helps prepare your pelvic joints and tissue to open for delivery (2).
There are some factors which will put you at higher risk for swelling:
- Standing or sitting for long periods: Sitting or standing for long periods of time can diminish your circulation, and your blood and fluids will start to pool down south.
- Long days of activity: While staying active and exercising is important for a healthy pregnancy, too much can cause swelling in your feet and ankles.
- Heat exposure: Swelling tends to be worse on hot summer days. Too much heat can lead to dehydration, and when you’re dehydrated, your body tries to retain as many fluids as possible.
- High or low sodium intake: A moderate amount of salt can help keep blood in the fluid rather than the tissue, but too much or too little will leave you feeling puffy.
- Electrolyte imbalance: Along with sodium, an imbalance of potassium, magnesium, and calcium can also lead to inadequate hydration, and hence swelling.
- Consuming large amounts of caffeine: Caffeine is known to cause dehydration, which makes your kidneys hang on to more excess fluids.
- Carrying multiples: Moms with multiples tend to retain more water and therefore experience more swelling.
When Does the Swelling Typically Start?
Swelling can occur at any point throughout your pregnancy, but most women begin to notice it during month five, and it often increases during the third trimester as you get closer to delivery. Those who have excessive amniotic fluid or are carrying multiples will probably notice the swelling sooner.
With my first baby, the swelling was so bad in the third trimester I would wear my UGG slippers to work because I had nothing else that fit.
Jennifer Schlette, MSN, RN
You might also have some postpartum swelling thanks to IV fluids during labor and the crazy hormone changes that are going on in your body. Both of these can cause you to retain fluids in your extremities after delivery. The swelling can often get worse before it gets better (3) but is typically a very normal part of the recovery process.
With my first baby, my swelling was the worst at three days postpartum. It was the only point in my pregnancy where I couldn’t get my shoes on. Not even close.
How Can I Reduce the Swelling?
Swelling doesn’t usually pose any threat during pregnancy, but it can sure be annoying and uncomfortable.
Here are 12 ways you can reduce the swelling in your feet and ankles and get some relief:
- Prop Your Feet Up: Be sure to take some time to rest and lounge with your feet above your hips and heart. Remember to avoid lying on your back and try not to cross your legs. If you have a desk job, it might be helpful to keep a step stool or stack some books under your desk so you can keep your feet propped up.
- Lay on Your Side: Lying on your side, particularly your left side will relieve increased pressure on your blood vessels and facilitates the elimination of excess fluid and waste through the kidneys.
- Avoid Lengthy Standing and Sitting: Changing positions often can really help to keep your circulation flowing and prevent blood from pooling in your feet and ankles. Try using a treadmill desk if you have a desk job, and make sure you’re taking time out of your day to sit and relax if you have a job that keeps you on your feet.
- Avoid Caffeine: Try to keep your caffeine intake to a minimum to avoid dehydration and swelling. While a cup of coffee a day is considered safe during pregnancy, you need to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to compensate (4).
- Moderate Your Sodium/Salt Intake: While too much or too little sodium can cause bloating and swelling, salt is still very important for staying properly hydrated. Moderate your salt intake by staying away from processed foods and table salt, and salting to taste with high-quality sea or Himalayan salt.
- Drink Plenty of Water: This might seem counterproductive, but drinking more water actually helps flush out the extra fluids your body is retaining. Staying hydrated rids your body of waste and excess sodium, minimizing the swelling. Aim for ten 8-ounce cups of water daily while you’re expecting (5).
- Wear Comfy Shoes: Find the best shoes for pregnancy that stretch and are easy to slip on to accommodate your puffy feet. Put the high heels in storage and avoid clothing that’s tight around the ankles and calves.
- Stay Cool: Those steamy summer days can aggravate your swelling, so stick to the shade or dip your feet in the pool. Minimize your time outside and just enjoy the A/C. Keeping a cold compress on swollen areas also does wonders.
- Go For a Swim: Swimming isn’t just a great prenatal exercise. It also helps improve circulation in the legs (6).
- Get a Prenatal Massage: Cash in on a much-needed massage to stop yourself from feeling like a giant marshmallow. Prenatal massage has been shown to improve circulation, stimulate the soft tissues, and reduce the collection of fluids in swollen joints. Always check to make sure your massage therapist is certified in prenatal massage.
- Try Compression Stockings: Talk with your doctor about compression stockings if your swelling is significant. These can help keep circulation flowing through your legs, but you need to be sure to get ones that are thigh high and put them on before you get out of bed in the morning, so that blood and fluids don’t have a chance to pool up around your ankles.
- Try Using Supportive Insoles: Many women who have been through pregnancy will tell you about the impact it had on their feet. As your baby grows during your pregnancy, and your body changes to accommodate it, your feet will too. The pregnancy hormones your body produces can loosen your foot ligaments, causing them to expand, resulting in swollen feet and ankles, flattened arches, and increased shoe size.That’s why it’s so important for pregnant women to take care of their feet.
Wearing comfortable shoes is a great start, but you might find you need to add a pair of orthotic insoles to relieve your tired, achy feet. Insoles will give your feet the support and stabilization they need, especially as your center of balance changes. And with the changes to your arch height that come along with pregnancy, you want to make sure your arches are fully supported for maximum comfort.
While they make “pregnancy support hose”, these can be very uncomfortable and bind around the abdomen. For this reason, I usually recommend thigh-high compression stockings (that can be found in non-white colors) worn throughout the day to keep fluid from collecting in the feet and ankles.
Christine Traxler, MD, BS
When Do I Need to Worry?
While some swelling can be a normal part of pregnancy, excessive or sudden onset of swelling is cause for concern, as this can be a sign of preeclampsia.
Other signs of preeclampsia include:
- High blood pressure.
- Headache that doesn’t go away with Tylenol.
- Blurry vision.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Facial swelling.
- Puffiness around your eyes.
- Pain in the upper right abdomen.
- Weight gain of more than two pounds in one week.
- Shortness of breath.
- Decreased urinary output.
Be sure to contact your health care provider if you experience any of these signs of preeclampsia throughout your pregnancy, as the condition can lead to seizures, stroke, kidney and liver failure, and even stillbirth and maternal death. Preeclampsia is nothing to mess around with!
You’ll also want to be sure to call your doctor if one of your legs is significantly more swollen than the other, as this can be a sign of a blood clot. You might also have tenderness, the area maybe hot or pain in your calf or thigh. Your provider will most likely order an ultrasound to rule out a clot.
Preeclampsia and blood clots can happen in the postpartum period as well, so don’t be afraid to call your provider after giving birth.
When Will the Swelling Go Away?
Swelling typically likes to stick around until delivery. After you deliver, it will disappear pretty quickly as your kidneys kick into gear and your body gets rid of the extra fluid.
You will probably find yourself sweating and peeing a lot during those first few days after giving birth (7). And remember, it might get worse for a few days postpartum before it gets better.
Don’t Let the Swelling Get You Down
You might be feeling uncomfortable and unattractive with all the swelling going on in your ankles and feet, but it shall soon pass.
For most expectant moms, the swelling tends to peak in the third trimester and quickly goes away within that first week after giving birth.
Always be sure to keep your doctor in the loop, just in case, as the swelling could be a sign of a bigger problem, such as preeclampsia and a blood clot.
While swelling can leave you feeling puffy, don’t let it get you down. Just try to embrace this stage of your pregnancy. You’re growing another human being, and that is beautiful!
Despite all the beautiful parts of pregnancy, the truth is that this is also potentially the most uncomfortable you will ever be. Gas, back aches, and for the love of God, THE SWELLING!
Swollen feet are the worst. Your shoes don’t fit right, and there’s nothing you would like more than to pop them like water balloons for some relief. That’s obviously not the best remedy, but you’ll be pleased to know that there are a few ways to relieve the discomfort of your swollen tootsies.
Here are some great holistic remedies:
Elevate your legs by placing your feet up on a stack of pillows. This is especially effective at night. Always keep your head propped up above your heart while doing this, though.
Light exercise will help with circulation and releasing built up toxins. Paired with a glass of water (which helps flush out toxins), this works!
Massage breaks up tension, of course, but it also releases the toxins that cause you to retain water. A good foot massage will set you right.
Soak, Soak, Soak
Soak feet in warm salt water, then massage with jojoba oil with an added blend of a few drops of peppermint oil to help cool, a few drops of grapefruit oil (an anti-inflammatory agent), and a few drops of ginger oil to reduce swelling and improve circulation. Or soak your feet in cold water to relieve the overheated sensation that comes with swelling.
Swimming is great for taking the weight off your feet, which will help them relax. (Bonus: It also takes the weight off your back, so it helps with back and hip pain.)
Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water. Most swelling is caused by the imbalance of sodium and water. This imbalance also affects your body’s ability to maintain a comfortable temperature (so you might feel really hot).
- Don’t cross your legs. It cuts off the circulation of blood from your thighs into your feet.
- Roll feet on tennis ball or ice cold can. This is just like a foot massage.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Your feet are carrying you and a baby so treat them nicely.
- Avoid anything salty. Too much sodium forces your body to retain water in your hands, feet, and belly.
- Wear support hose. There are socks out there, too, that help with circulation.
Do you have any tips to add to this list?
This article is not intended as medical advice, and this information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
Venous insufficiency. Swelling of the ankles and feet is often an early symptom of venous insufficiency, a condition in which blood inadequately moves up the veins from the legs and feet up to the heart. Normally, the veins keep blood flowing upward with one-way valves. When these valves become damaged or weakened, the blood leaks back down the vessels and fluid is retained in the soft tissue of the lower legs, especially the ankles and feet. Chronic venous insufficiency can lead to skin changes, skin ulcers, and infection. If you experience signs of venous insufficiency you should see your doctor. Find out more about chronic venous insufficiency.
Infection. Swelling in the feet and ankles can be a sign of infection. People with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve problems of the feet are at greater risk for foot infections. If you have diabetes, it is important to inspect feet daily for blisters and sores, because nerve damage can blunt the pain sensation and foot problems can progress quickly. If you notice a swollen foot or blister that appears to be infected, contact your doctor right away. Learn more about how to care for feet with diabetes.
Blood clot. Blood clots that form in the veins of the legs can stop the return flow of blood from the legs back up to the heart and cause swelling in the ankles and feet. Blood clots can be either superficial (occurring in the veins just beneath the skin), or deep (a condition known as deep vein thrombosis). Deep clots can block one or more of the major veins of the legs. These blood clots can be life-threatening if they break loose and travel to the heart and lungs. If you have swelling in one leg, along with pain, low-grade fever, and possibly a change in color of the affected leg, call your doctor immediately. Treatment with blood thinners may be necessary. Learn more about deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Heart, liver, or kidney disease. Sometimes swelling can indicate a problem such as heart, liver, or kidney disease. Ankles that swell in the evening could be a sign of retaining salt and water because of right-sided heart failure. Kidney disease can also cause foot and ankle swelling. When kidneys are not functioning properly, fluid can build up in the body. Liver disease can affect the liver’s production of a protein called albumin, which keeps the blood from leaking out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. Inadequate albumin production can lead to fluid leakage. Gravity causes fluid to accumulate more in the feet and ankles, but fluid can also accumulate in the abdomen and chest. If your swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight gain, see your doctor right away. If you feel short of breath or have chest pain, pressure, or tightness, call 911. Learn more about kidney disease and its symptoms.
Swollen legs and ankles affect safety and quality of life
Many older adults are affected by swollen legs and ankles. This can make moving around more difficult, increase fall risk, and make the lower body feel uncomfortable and heavy.
Legs, ankles, and feet swell when excess fluid is pulled down by gravity and builds up in the lower body. It’s called edema and is common in older adults.
Edema usually happens on both sides of the body. It can be caused by a variety of health conditions including heart failure, kidney disease, gout, and arthritis. It can also happen after surgery, when the body is healing.
We explain how certain exercises help and share a 7 minute video with 3 quick and easy exercises that reduce swelling in legs and ankles.
How exercise reduces swelling in legs and ankles
These simple exercises are basically working against gravity and helping the body pump fluids up from the feet and back into the trunk (center area) of the body.
Once the fluid is in the upper body, it can be processed by the kidneys and eliminated in urine.
Because these exercises help the body get rid of excess fluid, your older adult might need to pee more frequently.
Safety first: get the doctor’s approval
Before doing any of these exercises, it’s essential to check with your older adult’s doctor and get their approval.
Moving fluid out of the legs and into the center of the body to be processed could put extra stress on their system, especially for people with heart or kidney conditions.
For example, it wouldn’t be helpful to reduce swelling in the legs if that makes a heart condition worse. The goal is to safely improve overall health.
And as with any exercise, it’s always best to start slowly and increase over time to prevent injuries or discomfort.
3 simple home exercises for swollen legs and ankles
Bob, Brad, and Aaron are physical therapists who demonstrate and explain how to do 3 simple home exercises that relieve swelling in legs and ankles.
Exercise 1: Ankle pumps (1:28 in video)
Lie down and elevate feet. Moving only the feet, point toes up toward the head and then point toes down away from head.
Go back and forth and aim for 30 repetitions, 3 times a day.
It’s best to do this exercise while lying down, but it can also be done while seated. To make them a little more effective while seated, use a stool to elevate the feet.
Another senior-friendly alternative (2:48 in video) is to tap the toes like tapping along to a song. It might even be fun to play some toe-tapping music to make it more fun.
Exercise 2: Butt squeezes (3:17 min in video)
While sitting or lying down, tighten the glutes (butt muscles) – as if trying to pick up a quarter that’s between the butt cheeks 🙂
Go slowly and try to hold the squeeze for a few seconds, then release and relax for a few seconds before the next squeeze.
While doing this exercise, make sure your older adult doesn’t hold their breath. They should breathe slowly and deeply.
Aim for 10 of these squeezes, 3 times a day.
Exercise 3: Single knee to chest (5:09 min in video)
While lying down, bring one knee up to the chest and then return the leg to the flat position. Keep the other leg either flat or bent with the foot on the bed to take pressure off the back.
After finishing the exercises with one leg, switch to the alternate leg.
They don’t specifically mention how many repetitions to do. 10 repetitions per side, 3 times a day seems reasonable, but use your judgement to see what works best for your older adult.
Next Step Get a clear demonstration and walk-through of these 3 simple home exercises (7 min)
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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
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What’s causing those swollen feet?
Perhaps you’re just on your feet a lot, but the swelling also could signal a potentially serious condition.
Published: November, 2018
Image: © spukkato/Getty Images
Anyone can experience swollen feet from time to time. It’s common — especially after walking or standing for long periods — and it’s often remedied by resting and elevating those tired dogs.
Sometimes, however, swelling (also called edema) is a red flag for a more serious underlying problem.
“My approach is to consider potential problems in each of the body’s systems, such as the heart and blood vessels, bones, and skin,” explains Dr. James Ioli, chief of podiatry services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Healthy Feet (www.health.harvard.edu/fcb).
When you are on your feet a lot, gravity pulls blood into the veins of your legs, and some of the water in the blood enters the tissues of your legs and feet, causing them to swell. But there are also some conditions that can cause similar swelling because they affect the movement of fluids within the body.
Venous insufficiency. Valves in the veins of our legs keep blood from being pulled down by gravity and pooling in the leg veins. As we age, those valves age, too, and may function less efficiently. This is a common cause of swollen feet.
Phlebitis. This painful inflammation of the veins can cause swollen feet and also leg pain.
Deep-vein thrombosis. In this condition, blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs. The clots block the return of blood from the legs to the heart, causing swelling of the legs and feet. This can be very serious if it is not diagnosed and treated promptly: the blood clots can break loose and travel in the blood to the lungs, causing a condition called pulmonary embolism. This can cause breathlessness, pain with breathing, and even death. Usually, the clots occur in only one leg, and so just one leg is unusually swollen. While a new swelling of both legs and feet often is not serious, new swelling of just one leg is always something to bring to your doctor.
Heart failure. A failing heart does not pump as effectively as it should. As a result, blood in the leg veins that should be pumped back to the heart instead pools in the veins.
Liver disease. Some liver diseases can lead to low blood levels of a protein called albumin, which is made in the liver. Low albumin levels cause fluid in the blood to pass into the tissues, producing swelling not only of the legs and feet but also other parts of the body, such as the hands and face.
Kidney disease. Fluid can build up in the tissues if disease makes it hard for the kidneys to get rid of excess fluid in the body (one of the main functions of the kidneys).
Sometimes, swelling in the feet is the first clue that you have heart failure or liver or kidney disease, and your doctor needs to consider those possibilities. Your doctor will take a medical history and do a thorough physical examination that includes your heart and lungs. The doctor may order blood and urine tests, a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram, or other tests.
Sometimes swollen feet have causes that are not directly related to the flow of body fluids. For example:
Bone and tendon conditions. Several problems with the bones and tendons in your feet also can cause swelling, although (in contrast to the vascular causes) they also typically cause pain. Examples include fractures, arthritis, and tendinitis.
Problems with the skin and toenails. As we age, our skin thins. That makes skin more vulnerable to cuts, which then can become infected, causing swelling of the area near the wound. A cut on the foot can cause the whole foot to swell. Ingrown toenails that dig into the skin also can lead to sores and swelling.
Drug side effects. Some medications, such as calcium-channel blockers to treat high blood pressure, can also be the culprit.
What you should do
A little foot swelling is probably nothing to worry about. If you get off your feet and prop them up on a footstool, the swelling should disappear over several hours.
When should you call the doctor? “Report your symptoms to your doctor if there’s so much swelling that it leaves an indentation if you press your finger into it, or if it has developed suddenly, lasts for more than a few days, affects just one foot, or is accompanied by pain or discoloration of the skin,” Dr. Ioli advises.
Finally, don’t make your own diagnosis. With so many potential reasons for swelling, it’s important to let your doctor drill down to the cause, prescribe the treatment you need, and help you get back on your feet as soon as possible.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Should You Ice or Heat an injury?
Ice packs and heating pads are among the most commonly used treatments in orthopedics. So which one is the right one to use for your injury, ice or heat? And how long should the ice or heat treatments last? Read on for information about treatment of injuries with ice packs and heating pads.
Ice treatment is most commonly used for acute injuries. If you have had a recent injury (within the last 48 hours) where swelling is a problem, you should be using ice. Ice packs can help minimize swelling around the injury, reduce bleeding into the tissues, and reduce muscle spasm and pain.
Ice packs are often used after injuries like ankle sprains have occurred. Applying an ice pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling, and decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain. Ice treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, ice the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never ice a chronic injury before activity.
You can make ice packs with ice cubes in a plastic bag or wet tea towel; a pack of frozen peas is also ideal and can go in and out of the freezer. Never place ice directly on an injury; keep the pack moving to avoid ice burns. Never treat with ice for more than 30 minutes, and remove the pack immediately if the injury appears bright pink or red.
Don’t use ice packs on the left shoulder if you have a heart condition, and don’t use ice packs around the front or side of the neck.
Heat treatments should be used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues and to stimulate blood flow to the area. Use heat treatments for conditions such as overuse injuries before participating in activities.
Do not use heat treatments after activity, and do not use heat after an acute injury. Never use heat where swelling is involved because swelling is caused by bleeding in the tissue, and heat just draws more blood to the area.
Heating tissues can be accomplished using a heating pad, or even a hot, wet towel. When using heat treatments, be very careful to use a moderate heat for a limited time to avoid burns. Never leave heating pads or towels on for extended periods of time or while sleeping.
Don’t use cold or heat packs:
• over areas of skin that are in poor condition
• over areas of skin with poor sensation to heat or cold
• over areas of the body with known poor circulation
• if you have diabetes
• in the presence of infection
If you have questions regarding the proper treatment of an injury, call the doctors or physical therapists at Southern California Orthopedic Institute today at (888) 791-7766.
5 Methods to Reduce Swelling From an Injury
Did you throw too many passes and hurt your shoulder? Did you twist your ankle working in the yard? Did you lift too much weight and injure your knees? If your answer is yes to any of these or other injuries, you’ve probably experienced swelling and inflammation.
When the body is injured, whether from sports or overexertion, the immune system responds with swelling and inflammation. During the inflammatory response, the body rushes white blood cells, proteins, antibodies, and various supportive fluids to the injury. This causes inflammation and swelling.1
The excess fluid produced by the body helps protect damaged tissues from further injury. Although a certain amount of swelling is unavoidable, it’s important to do what you can to help control the process for these important reasons:
- Too much swelling may slow down healing.
- Untreated inflammation may lead to even more swelling.
- Excess swelling can be uncomfortable and sometimes limit your range of motion.2
How to Reduce Swelling After an Injury
There are several methods you can use to help control the body’s natural inflammatory response. Try using any or all of these five tips to help reduce swelling and control pain2,3:
Using an injured body part may contribute to swelling by encouraging blood flow and irritating damaged cells. For example, trying to walk after an ankle sprain may cause additional excess fluid to build up as your body continues to protect the damaged tissues. Although it may be tempting to try to continue normal activity after an injury, it’s usually a good idea to rest the area for at least a few days.
2. Cold Therapy
Applying cold immediately after an injury helps reduce swelling by restricting blood flow to the area and slowing down cellular metabolism. You can use ice packs, cold therapy systems, ice baths, or cryotherapy chambers to deliver cold to the affected area. Apply cold several times a day for 20-30 minutes at a time to help keep swelling down, especially in the first several days after an injury.4
Applying pressure to an injury helps reduce swelling by restricting the flow of blood and other fluids. You can apply compression with static bandages, elastic bandages, or cold and compression devices. When using static or elastic bandages, adjust the pressure as necessary to make sure they provide enough compression without being too constrictive. As swelling increases and decreases, you should adjust the bandages accordingly.
Elevating an injury above the level of the heart also contributes to reduced blood flow, which may mean less swelling. With leg injuries, it’s important to keep the legs elevated while seated or reclining so that excess fluid is not allowed to collect around the injury. Following a leg injury, the risk of a dangerous blood clot increases if you don’t elevate the injury, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting or in bed.5 Comfortably elevate injured areas while sleeping by using soft pillows as props.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate the pain of an injury. Always follow the dosage guidelines and ask your doctor about potential interactions with other medications.
You can get the most benefit from cold and compression by combining the two in a system that delivers consistent cold while helping your body pump excess fluid away from the injured area. The Game Readycold therapy system can be used after an injury to help control pain, reduce swelling, and help you recover as quickly as possible.Contact us today to learn more about using Game Ready for injury recovery.
Reducing Swelling from Specific Injuries
Although the inflammatory response is consistent throughout the body, there are specific actions you can take to help address it in various areas.6
Addressing the swelling in foot injuries may include elevating the foot above the level of the heart, applying cold therapy, and using a compression bandage or active compression system to help remove excess fluid from the area. If circulation is poor or you have to be on your feet, it’s important to elevate, ice, and compress regularly throughout the day to keep the swelling down. Wear comfortable shoes, and avoid high heels or pointed toes.
Sprains and strains in ankle tissues are some of the most common injuries.7 Reducing swelling in ankle injuries is similar to the approach for foot injuries. In addition to elevation and cold therapy, you might also consider wearing an ankle brace to provide consistent static compression and help prevent the buildup of excess fluid.
Swelling from knee injuries can impact your range of motion in the joint and make it difficult to walk.8 You can help reduce swelling by applying cold therapy several times a day and wearing an elastic bandage or brace. If mobility is an issue, consider using a crutch, a cane, or another assistive device to keep pressure off the leg while you recover from a knee injury.
It’s difficult to elevate the upper legs. Their larger surface area also makes smaller ice packs less effective, which is why the body-conforming wraps used in cold therapy systems are beneficial. Applying compression to the groin, quadriceps, or hamstrings is also not as easy with elastic bandages, making active compression wraps a good alternative for injuries in leg tissues.
Swelling is a natural response to injury, but left unchecked, it may prolong your recovery time. Be proactive with tactics such as elevation, cold therapy, and compression to help your body heal faster.