Do Standing Desks Cause Varicose Veins?
Tyson Sewell | Last updated Aug 4, 2022 | Published on Jul 24, 2022
If you’re worried about varicose veins, you might be alarmed by studies that standing too much can cause both varicose and spider veins. You’ll probably not be relieved to hear then that too much sitting can have exactly the same effect. So can you win in the battle against varicose veins, and still get all the benefits of a sit stand workstyle?
The answer, luckily, is a resounding YES. The best way to prevent varicose veins is to keep active during the work day, and vary your position between sitting and standing. This article will explain what varicose veins and spider veins are, why you want to avoid them, and how best evolve your work habits (and use your standing desk) to help prevent them.
Varicose veins can affect people of all ages, so even if you think varicose veins aren’t a problem you need to consider (yet), read on as you might be surprised.
What Are Varicose Veins?
They happen when the veins near the surface of the skin become enlarged and twisted. Although you can get varicose veins in many spots on the body, they are most commonly found on the legs. The reason for this is that the legs bear the most weight and therefore have the most pressure exerted on them.
This pressure, plus the force of gravity on blood flow, put great pressure on the veins in the leg, causing them to expand and in some cases twist under the force. Varicose veins are visible through the skin due to their proximity to the surface, and in serious cases can bulge out from the body.
Although in the majority of cases varicose veins are just unsightly, they can have more serious consequences, especially if you have underlying health conditions. Varicose veins can also be a sign of more serious issues, for which you should consult a medical health professional. We’ll touch on this later.
What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, in that they are caused the same things and result in purple veins showing through the skin. The main difference with spider veins is they are much smaller, less noticeable, are less likely to cause discomfort, and are also less likely to indicate a serious underlying health condition.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
In most cases, varicose veins are harmless, and are normally caused by lifestyle issue or other (non threatening) things happening in the body. Varicose veins can indicate a problem with the valves in the veins themselves.
As blood is pumped around the body, we have to fight against gravity to pump blood back out of our legs. As blood is moved up the leg, a series of valves open and close which stop the blood from flowing backwards and pooling. If these valves are damaged or weakened, this can cause varicose veins.
However, in most circumstances varicose veins are harmless enough. The major risk factors for varicose veins are:
Women are more prone to varicose veins due to the hormonal changes which come on in pregnancy, around the time of menstruation, and then the menopause. Hormones that are released into the body at these times can soften the vein walls, allowing them to stretch and cause enlarged veins.
Weak valves and vein walls can be hereditary, so if your older relatives have or had varicose veins, it’s worth taking precautions.
The more weight the legs carry, the greater the pressure, and the more likely varicose veins are to develop. Therefore, it kind of makes sense that if you’re overweight, you will have a higher risk of developing varicose veins.
Although it’s possible to develop varicose veins at any age, they are more likely to develop later in life. This is because with age, the valves in the arteries and the walls of the veins themselves are weakened. This means that not only is blood more likely to flow backwards into the veins due to faulty valves, it is more likely to stretch the veins too as the walls are not as strong as they once were. Which, as we’ve just covered, leads to varicose veins.
Too Much Standing
It is recognised by most medical professionals now that too much standing can increase the risk of developing varicose veins. The reasons are simple – standing put pressure on our legs, which helps contract the pace for blood to flow freely. Meanwhile, our heart is working double time to pump the blood back up our legs against gravity.
This can cause blood to flow backwards and pool, leading to twisted, discoloured veins on the skins surface.
What Are The Symptoms Of Varicose Veins?
In many cases, varicose veins are painless, and the only indicator will be visual. Look out for:
- Dark purple or blue veins which are prominent through the skin.
- Veins which appear twisted or bulging.
In more serious or developed cases though, varicose veins can cause:
- Pain in legs/knees after prolonged sitting or standing
- Aching or heaviness in the legs.
- A burning or throbbing sensation.
- Cramping and/or swelling in the lower legs.
Who Can Get Varicose Veins?
Anyone can get varicose veins. If you have a genetic tendency towards them, and you stand for long periods for work, you run the risk of varicose veins if there is blood pooling in your legs. Pregnant and menopausal women are prone to varicose veins due to the changes in the body and the hormones which flood women’s systems around these times.
And although young people can develop varicose veins, they are much more likely to develop in people over the age of 40.
Are Varicose Veins Bad For You?
However, in more extreme cases varicose veins can require treatment and can carry additional health risks:
- Ulcers – in some cases, painful ulcers can form near the vein which require treatment.
- Blood clots – f veins deep within the leg become enlarged, this can lead to pain, a burning sensation, and swelling. If this is the case, it is important to consult a medical professional, as this could be a sign of blood clots forming – which is left unchecked, can lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis and more serious problems.
- Bleeding – if the vein is especially near the skins surface, they can sometimes burst and cause bleeding. Although normally not serious, it is important to seek medical attention to prevent infection.
Does Standing At Work Cause Varicose Veins?
Standing at work can cause varicose veins, as we’ve covered earlier, one of the most common reasons is standing for extended periods. Too much time spent standing has two key effects which can lead to veins twisting and expanding.
The pressure on the legs contract the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow through. As blood is forced through the veins, this can cause swelling, and, in extreme cases, twisting of the vein. This pressure can also lead to a weakening of the valves in the veins and arteries.
The second factor is gravity. In an upright position, the heart has to fight gravity to pump the blood back up the legs, through the body and back to the heart. This can lead to blood pooling in the legs, stretching veins and placing extra strain on the valves.
However, it’s crucial to remember that this happens if you stand all day for work, or you spend too much of your time sitting. Varying your position during the day, and taking regular breaks to move around can help regulate the blood flowing through the body and help improve your vein health. But we’ll get to that later.
Is Standing Or Sitting Worse For Varicose Veins?
The truth is, it’s genuinely hard to say whether prolonged standing or prolonged sitting is more or less likely to cause issues.
As we’ve covered above, standing all day can lead to an increased risk. The pressure applied to the legs while standing coupled with the extra work the heart, muscles and veins have to do to circulate the blood against gravity means blood pools in the legs, stretches veins and weakens the arterial valves.
Sitting for too long, however, can also cause blood to pool in the lower legs, and although your legs aren’t directly carrying your weight, you are applying pressure to the back of your thighs, which can stop blood flowing freely.
This can cause blood to pool around the calf muscles, in much the same way as standing can enlarge and twist veins, resulting in the same outcome.
Does Sitting Help Varicose Veins?
Sitting down can help varicose veins, but, based on the information above, it’s hard to say that sitting alone is a good way keeping your leg veins hidden. But sitting can help varicose veins, and can certainly minimise the chance of developing them in the first place.
The trick is to vary your position during the day, and never spend too long in either the seated or the standing position.
Can Sitting Down Too Much Cause Varicose Veins?
Yes, sitting down too much can cause varicose veins. The only effective way of preventing varicose veins is to vary your position, alternate between sitting and standing, and take regular breaks to move around and promote good blood flow.
How Do You Prevent Varicose Veins When Standing All Day?
To prevent varicose veins when standing all day, the best solution is to not stand all day! Standing desks allow you to vary your position during the day, so you can effectively offset the negative impacts of prolonged periods spent standing.
Here’s just a few ways your standing desk can help with varicose veins, along with a few extra suggestions:
Use Your Standing Desk Properly
A standing desk may be worth it as it offers you the opportunity to vary your position during the day, which is the best way of offsetting the risks associated with too much standing, or long periods spent sitting.
Changing your position regularly limits the opportunities for blood to pool in the legs, meaning your veins will experience less pressure and thus are less likely to swell and twist. And staying active also promotes healthy circulation.
Choose A Good Chair
A good office chair will help distribute the weight across your saddle, and prevent pinch points which could impede the blood flow in the legs.
A chair with a good foot rest will allow you to stretch your legs out as straight as possible periodically, which will open up your veins and allow any pooled blood to flow.
Stretch out your calves
Varicose veins tend to affect the calves as this is where blood is most likely to pool. Breaking from work to do a few standing calf raises, toe touches, or even simply just flexing your calves as you work (sitting or standing) can improve the circulation through your legs..
Take Regular Activity Breaks
Taking time to walk away from your desk at regular intervals is one of the best ways to prevent twisted veins and poor circulation – which is exactly why we recommend this to all of our users!
Often just getting up and walking around can be enough – but if you have the time and energy to really get the blood pumping, the benefits will be greatly increased.
Moving away from your desk and walking around relieves the pressure on your legs from sitting or standing, and helps to boost blood circulation. It also helps with the next point …
Lighten The Load
One of the great benefits of standing desks is that they encourage a more active lifestyle, boost blood flow, and help to stop the metabolism slowing. This is crucial as a healthy metabolism helps us burn calories more efficiently, and as such, helps prevent weight gain. It can also of course, aid in weight loss too.
Obesity is one of the key risk factors for varicose veins, so as luck would have it, by following the advise above, you can also help avoid weight gain (and all of the other related health problems).
Elevate Your Legs
If you are really worried about developing varicose veins, elevate your legs at the end of the work day to make blood flow as easy as possible. This will relieve the pressure on any veins which are struggling, and help to stop any problems developing in future.
By using these tips, and changing frequently between sitting and standing, you can easily use a standing desk to help prevent and heal varicose veins. If you’re interested in this and the other health benefits associated with sit stand desking, check out our full range of desks and see if there’s a healthier work style that suits you.
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