Doctors frequently counsel their patients to exercise in order to improve their health. Although walking is great for leg arteries and calorie burning, here at Totality, we encourage our patients, if able, to walk for a very specific reason…venous health.
Did you know that the calf muscle is also called the peripheral heart? Why, you ask? Most people know that their heart is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to the body, but have you ever wondered how that blood is returned to the heart? The answer is the peripheral heart or the calf muscle pump.
When we walk, our ankle, the primary mechanism in a well-functioning calf pump, flexes, causing the muscles in our calves to contract, squeezing the veins within our legs. This action forces deoxygenated blood upwards towards the heart through a series of tiny, one-way valves in our veins. When this system is not functioning properly, blood pools in the veins. This results in increased venous pressure causing leg swelling, the development of varicose veins, higher risk of deep vein thrombosis, or in some cases, the development of leg wounds that are difficult to heal. Studies on patients who had chronic venous insufficiency with leg wounds, showed that patients who developed a greater range of motion in their ankle and improved calf muscle strength, showed significant improvements in their ability to heal their ulcers. Why? Because they re-activated their calf muscle pump, moving static blood causing ulcer development out of their leg. So, to avoid the ramifications of venous disease, or if you are already experiencing symptoms of venous disease, we encourage you to walk, walk, walk to get that calf pump working efficiently in your favor.
For more information on the improving the calf muscle pump, we suggest the following article, “Improving the calf pump using home-based exercise for patients with chronic venous disease” linked below: