Edema of the Legs
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Edema, or swelling in the legs, may be caused by any one of a number of problems. Among them are:
Congestive Heart Failure
Lack of activity
Damage to the lymphatic system (a system of vessels that returns fluid from around the body’s cells to the blood stream)
If you have edema, consult your physician. The cause may be serious and require specialized treatment or medication, or it may be easily treatable with activity or diet changes. If your swelling is sudden, red, hot, and/or painful, seek medical care at once before beginning any exercise program.
Activity and exercise can be beneficial to reduce edema by promoting an increase in circulation. Muscle action squeezes the veins and lymphatic vessels and assists fluid movement back toward the heart. If the lower limbs are swollen, walking or bicycling works all of your leg muscles. The contraction of the muscles squeezes these vessels which have specialized valves in them to prevent backward flow of the fluid. This is the basis for exercise in aiding to relieve edema.