The day has been extremely long and you have been laid out on the couch most of the day with painful aches in your legs, and “Oh my god!. What are these two giant sausages attached to me!!! “. Don’t panic, it has probably happened to all of us at some point in our lives. Now, you can understand why it felt like you had two giant balls attached to your ankles. Heavy legs should be declared a “Public health problem”! But what are they due to? And more importantly, how should we treat them? This week’s Aromatherapy article looks how little tricks of everyday life and the best essential oils available can fight against painful legs.
What exactly is this feeling of heavy legs?
Gender inequality (once again….) means women are far more vulnerable to painful legs than men. If you have a feeling of heaviness and stiffness in your legs, and these feelings tend to be accentuated during the day by heat or when you have spent too much time standing, it is probably because you are suffering from heavy leg syndrome.
Okay, but why does each damn leg feel like it weighs 10 tonnes? Well, there are two main causes to explain this pain: venous insufficiency or water retention.
Heavy legs and venous insufficiency
Venous insufficiency, which is often hereditary, leads to poor blood circulation, mainly in the lower limbs. But what are we talking about exactly? Hang on a sec, I’ll slip into my phlebologist’s suit (venous disease specialist) and explain it to you!
Normally, when you walk, the vessels on your feet contract, therefore allowing the blood to be propelled to the heart. This is called plantar hunting. In order for the blood to reach the heart, it must be prevented from flowing back (through the effects of gravity). Small valves, present in the vessels functioning like miniature doors, are able to open and close, thus preventing the blood from flowing back down the vessels (yes, nature sometimes works in our favour!)
In the case of venous insufficiency, these small valves do not work properly so some of the blood goes back down towards our feet, causing the blood to stagnate, and eventually a feeling of heavy and swollen legs.
Sometimes, the insufficiency is such that the blood deforms the veins and causes varicose veins or causes the formation of clots leading to thrombosis.
Heavy legs and water retention
Another cause of heaviness in legs is none other than our number one enemy: water retention! It corresponds to an accumulation of water within a tissue causing its swelling: say hello to swollen ankles, and oedemas in the legs.
Several factors can be attributed to water retention: hormonal disorders, renal diseases, heart or lung issues, malnutrition (high salt diet), or some drugs (corticosteroids).
Venous insufficiency can also cause blood stagnation, which in turn impacts lymphatic circulation, which is responsible for the drainage of water into the tissues.
Our tips to relieve symptoms
Don’t stress out about it, you are not condemned to having two fat sausages as legs for the rest of your life! Here are some simple tips and dietary rules which can help you relieve the symptoms:
- Move!!!: Physical activity activates blood circulation and lymphatic drainage so walk as much as possible! Swimming is also a good way to stimulate blood circulation as the massaging effect of water is ideal!
- Eat well and drink enough: a balanced diet helps limit weight gain, which can eventually put pressure on the venous circulation and cause heavy legs. Even better, opt for foods rich in antioxidants which benefits for your vessels. Do not forget that water flushes water so think about hydration even if you already feeling a bit like a balloon! Foods with draining properties can also limit water retention (artichoke or black radish for example).
- Avoid the heat: too long spent in the sun or in hot baths in front of your favourite series should be avoided. The heat expands the vessels and affects circulation.
- Massage your legs: a massage from the bottom up with essential oils relieves pain and manually stimulates venous return and lymphatic drainage.
- Be realistic when shopping: Do not choose a Size 36 when you know you’re actually 38. Let’s See …! Clothing that is too tight compresses your tissues and prevents normal blood circulation.
Which essential oils should we use on heavy legs?
Now that you have the basics and you know about the causes of heavy legs, let’s see which essential oils can be used to minimise the swelling and the pains.
Essential oils :
- Peppermint essential oil: it contains monoterpenes, small molecules limiting venous dilation, the main cause of poor blood circulation.
- Pistachio Lentisque essential oil: it has vasoconstrictor properties which fluidify the lymphatic and the blood circulation. It also helps to reduce oedema.
- Cypress essential oil: the alpha-pinene found in this oil gives it venous decongestant properties and limits oedema.
- Juniper essential oil: an anti-retention water essential oil par excellence, Juniper oil facilitates the drainage of water therefore limiting oedema and helping the blood to flow.
Vegetal oils :
The most recommendable vegetable oil for heavy legs is Calophyline Oil. It contains tonic and protective properties (good for your circulation) and fluidifies the blood.
If you don’t have this oil, you can always use Hazelnut Oil, known for its rapid penetration and without a greasy film.
How to apply the oil?
The best option is to massage it into the body: dilute 1 drop of essential oil in 4 drops of vegetable oil and massage your legs up and down!
Be careful !
Lentisque Pistachier oil can cause skin irritation so it must be well diluted. It’s not recommended for people suffering from asthma or epilepsy.
Before using essential oils, talk to your doctor beforehand and do some preliminary tests to check for adverse reactions.