The Importance of Elevating Your Feet to Reduce Swelling - Peripheral Vascular Associates
The Importance of Elevating Your Feet to Reduce Swelling - Peripheral Vascular Associates

The Importance of Elevating Your Feet to Reduce Swelling


How high do I have to raise my legs and for how long to make them stop swelling?

The answer is “it depends”. In general, the more the better, but each person is a little different. Your goal, if you have this problem, is to be the world’s expert on your legs. You need to experiment.

The reason leg elevation helps swelling is that gravity pulls towards earth. If your leg is swollen and you raise it higher than your heart, the force of gravity will be moving the fluid in your leg towards your heart. The more the swelling and the longer there has been swelling, the longer and more frequently your need to elevate your legs. Start with 20 minutes twice a day. This might do the trick. If not, go to 30 minutes or even an hour. You might need to do this three or even four times per day. Remember, the swollen leg needs to be higher than your heart. Otherwise, you’re not getting the full force of gravity. When you go to bed for the night, raise your legs on several pillows. When you are watching TV, raise your legs as much as is comfortable.

In some cases, once your swelling has improved, you’ll find that you can decrease the amount of time you have you leg higher than your heart. You might even get to a stage where you can go to once a day.

Can you raise your leg too high? No. If you could hang upside down all day, like a bat under the Austin bridges, your leg swelling would disappear. Of course, humans cannot live upside down, but you get the point. Swelling of the legs is caused by extra fluid in the legs. Gravity, (which is everywhere and free) moves fluid downhill. Get your swollen leg up and the swelling goes down.

Of course, the gravity thing works for arms, too. If your arm is swollen, say from a sting or trauma, elevating it will, you guessed it, decrease the swelling.

Peripheral Vascular Associates is proud to serve the San Antonio community and surrounding areas in vascular disease education, prevention, and treatment for over 43 years. Our vascular physicians are dedicated to helping our patients better understand how we can help them with vascular disease. If you would like more information about vascular health, please contact us or schedule an appointment at (210) 237-4444.

Source: Dr. Demetrios Macris
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