Most of us are familiar with the varicose and spider veins generally associated with older people. But in fact, those are just some of the symptoms of venous disease, a condition that can develop earlier in life and surprisingly, for daily or long-distance runners. Often marathoners, athletes or those who hit the gym on a regular basis develop some form of vein disease but never know it because symptoms don’t show up in the commonly known form of bulging or blue veins.
For marathoners or consistently long-term runners unfamiliar with venous disease, here are the symptoms you should pay attention to:
- Feeling of “heaviness” or tiredness in the legs
- Achy or swollen legs
- Cramping or pains in the calves
- Itchy or discolored skin
- Signs of dermatitis or skin conditions such as eczema
If you’ve experienced these symptoms you may be at risk to have an early form of vein disease. If so, it doesn’t mean you have to hang up your new $125 Hokas or skip that bucket-list race in Maui you’ve been dreaming about for years. There are many options to help slow down the progression of the disease and mediate your symptoms such as vein-healthy exercise, wearing compression gear and if necessary, minimal vein procedures.
As with most medical conditions, your first line of defense is a healthy body, and the same is true in venous disease. Running helps facilitate increased blood circulation when blood is pumped back to the heart from healthy calf muscles and feet. As marathoner’s prep for long distances, more of them are cross-training to maximize their speed, endurance and stamina. But beyond running, there are other helpful exercise habits when it comes to battling the side effects of venous disease or trying to protect yourself against developing it later in life. Here are some tips to help you out:
- Run or jog only on grass, trails or turf tracks
- Use good techniques when weight training, i.e., lower weight and more reps
- Wear compression socks when lifting weights, then bike, walk or run afterward
- Hit the gym for a spin class or an elliptical workout to cross train
- Run on concrete and sidewalks
- Overdue it on the sit-ups and crunches
- Pack on weights to push it on the bench press
- Perform yoga sequences with prolonged abdominal postures
- Load up on leg lunges too much
Besides marathon training or pounding the pavement regularly, there are other factors that can put you at risk for diseased veins, including pregnancy, genetics, gender, age, obesity and jobs with prolonged sitting or standing. Anyone with these risk factors will benefit from compression gear – either socks or stockings.
The Vein Institute specialist Dr. Vince Gardner is such a believer in compression’s ability to prevent and/or heal the body that he recommends patients use compression wear daily, particularly long-distance runners or athletes in training. Compression therapy is easy to incorporate into your training and is so effective the socks are prescribed to patients as “medicine.” For those who have tried compression therapy and still experience symptoms or don’t see results, there are simple office procedures such as endovenous ablation or sclerotherapy. These outpatient therapies are performed onsite by Dr. Gardner at The Vein Institute of Southern Surgical Arts and typically involve minimal pain and offer a quick recovery.
As an official sponsor of the Chattanooga Marathon, The Vein Institute is committed to raising awareness on the importance of overall blood circulation and vein health for long distance runners. Be sure to check out our February blog series “How Well Do Your Veins Run?” And stop by our tent on race day to set up a free vein screening and get more information on vein health from our trained professionals.
For all the Chattanooga Marathon and Half Marathon runners, we wish you the best of luck!