How Long to Elevate Legs

How Long to Elevate Legs

Why Might Elevating Limbs Be Recommended?

When you elevate your legs, you encourage gravity to work in your favor. If you are sitting or standing, your legs can become oxygen-depleted because they have to work against gravity to return blood to your heart. Elevating your legs, however, is a powerful way to improve blood flow in the veins in your legs, which can yield a variety of benefits, including:

  • Maintaining healthy blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, allowing the lungs, heart, and muscles to function effectively
  • Fighting off and preventing potential diseases and sicknesses by transporting white blood cells throughout the body as needed
  • Keeping the organs functioning at a healthy level by removing waste from the body

Your limbs are prone to injury during sports and simply from the wear and tear of daily life. Although these injuries can happen to anyone, if you have played sports, you’ve likely either seen a teammate suffer with this or been through it yourself. Any leg injury that involves swelling can benefit from elevation. Swelling is an integral aspect of your body’s natural inflammatory response, and it is your body’s way of communicating that you should avoid that area.

This bodily notification setting can be quite irritating to those experiencing an injury because once you’ve been injured, you probably know about it, and you do not want to be reminded. When swollen tissue meets the nerves that send pain signals to the brain, it can be quite uncomfortable, and elevation can help reduce this problem. The amount of time needed in order for the elevation to be effective will vary from injury to injury, but for a typical leg injury, you’ll need to raise your legs above your heart for three to four times a day and for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. This will help you get the most out of the elevation treatment. In addition to elevation, icing, compressing with a bandage, and resting the injured body part will all help expedite your healing.

Common Leg Injuries That Can Benefit from Elevation

Your legs are comprised of bones, blood vessels, muscles, and other connective tissues. They play an important role in just about every movement we make, from playing sports to running, driving, and walking. When you injure your leg, you leave the rest of the body vulnerable as well, so it is important to work with a physical therapist who can help your body reach a place of healing as soon as possible. Some of the most common leg injuries that can benefit from elevation include:

  • Sprains

A leg sprain occurs when your ligaments are forced to stretch beyond their normal range. The purpose of your ligaments is to support the joints and keep bones in place. A typical leg sprain takes up to six weeks to heal completely, but severe sprains can take up to six weeks to heal. Symptoms of leg sprains include the inability to put weight on your leg, pain, tenderness, and swelling, and muscle spasms.

  • Tendonitis of the Achilles

This tendon is named after the ancient Greek mythological figure Achilles because it is located at the only part of his body that was left vulnerable after his mother held him by the heel into the River Styx. In the real world, the Achilles tendon represents the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is used for walking, running, climbing, jumping, and standing on your tip toes.

The Achilles tendon is strong and can handle lots of stress from running and jumping, but it is also vulnerable to tendonitis. Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon. This is the body’s natural response to injury, and it can lead to great amounts of swelling, pain, and irritation. There are two types of Achilles tendonitis: non-insertional and insertional Achilles tendonitis. Non-insertional Achilles tendinopathy is a degenerative condition characterized by pain during activity. In addition to elevation, one of the most effective forms of treatment for this condition is eccentric stretching.

Eccentric strength refers to tension that is applied to a muscle as it lengthens. The muscle’s force-producing capacity is most optimal at this point. Eccentric exercise leads to less oxygen consumption, less energy expenditure, and greater force production. When you have tendonitis of the Achilles, an eccentric exercise program will gradually increase the stress to your tendon, which will also reduce swelling and pain over time. These exercises can take between three to six months before you will see improvement in your symptoms.

  • Runner’s knee

Runner’s knee, formally known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a common overuse injury that leads to pain at the front of the knee and around or behind the kneecap. It happens when excessive and repetitive strain is placed on the knee, so this injury is most often seen in runners and those who participate in sports like cycling and hiking.

It is unique from other sports injuries in the sense that there is not tissue damage associated with it. With a runner’s knee injury, no bones are broken, no tendons are torn, and no cartilage is damaged. The pain associated with the injury comes from inflamed tissues that surround the kneecap, like the fat, bursa, and synovial membrane.

Runner’s knee can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The team at ProFysio Physical Therapy can also create a customized exercise plan to help heal the condition. Treatment options in this case include physiotherapy exercise, foot orthotics, taping, and bracing. Physiotherapy exercise will focus on hip and knee exercises, core strength, and balance. Foot orthotics can help by keeping the foot and lower body in alignment. Lastly, taping and bracing can help reduce knee pain while running, so the patient can continue with their training if they need to once they have reached a safe level to do so.

  • Splints

When we talk about splints, we are most often referring to shin splits. This is one of the most aggravating injuries for athletes because it makes running feel like an impossible task. Shin splints describe the pain felt along the front of the lower leg at the shin bone. Patients most often feel this pain in the lower leg between the knee and the ankle. Similarly to many injuries, shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bone.

Elevating your shin above the level of your heart will help decrease the swelling and pain associated with shin splints. Shin splints can be bone-related or muscular-related, and this will change the necessary treatment route. We recommend scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist in order to identify the root cause of your shin splints. If the splint is bone-related, it will be necessary to utilize dynamic rest.

In addition to elevation, other treatments include icing and using orthotic shoes. The most important objective is that your body gets the rest it needs so you can experience the healing you deserve. As far as muscular splints, foam rolls can work wonders. They will help reduce inflammation and can alleviate pain. Other helpful techniques include manual massages, arch support, and stability shoes.

  • Fasciitis

“Fasciitis” refers to “inflammation of the fascia of a muscle or organ.” It is one of the most common causes of feet pain, and the pain can radiate throughout the legs. It is caused by repetitive strain injury to the ligament of the sole of the foot. Excessive running, walking, poor footwear, and high levels of stress on the ligament can cause this injury. Elevating the foot can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain levels by preventing blood from pooling at the injured site. When it comes to treating this foot injury, time and rest are the names of the game. In addition to rest, stretching, strengthening, and proper foot support are the best ways to address a typical case.

If you have any questions about leg elevation or you are looking for treatment recommendations for other injuries, call ProFysio Physical Therapy at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online.

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