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Swollen Legs in the Summer Heat

Swelling in the lower legs, also known as edema, is a very common condition that can affect many people. In the languid humidity and heat of summer, people who already suffer from edema may find their symptoms more aggravated. People who do not normally have edema may find that their legs, or even other limbs, start to experience some swelling.

Here are some of the most common causes of edema

1. Poor Circulation - When the blood flow is poor, fluids from within the veins can accumulate via osmosis into the surrounding tissue. Chronic diseases that may affect circulation like Obesity and Diabetes tend to be some of the leading causes of poor circulation and consequently, edema.

2. Prolonged Standing or Sitting - Oftentimes people who have purely sedentary jobs, or people who have jobs that involve standing and not moving around much, may cause excess fluid to accumulate, courtesy of gravity, towards the lower limbs.

3. Pregnancy - The excess weight and pressure of the belly on the blood vessels of the lower body tends to cause water to accumulate.

4. Chronic diseases - Congestive heart failure, COPD (a lung disorder), Diabetes, can all tend towards fluid build up in certain parts of the body.

But why does edema tend to get worse in the summer? It is believed to have something to do with the way blood vessels dilate in the heat. With the excessive dilation, the valves within the major blood vessels, especially vessels in the lower legs, have a harder time sending the blood back to the heart, which leads to more fluid from the vessels to accumulate in the surrounding tissues.

How to Treat Edema

1. Drink Water!

Even though edema is an excessive accumulation of water, drinking adequate amounts of water actually helps to reduce edema. The reason is that drinking enough water will reduce the body's risk of dehydration, which will allow the cells to release the excessive fluid that it is retaining. At the same time, water helps to increase the body's metabolism and improve circulation.

2. Acupuncture

Regular acupuncture treatments, especially if you tend to suffer from chronic edema, can help to regulate fluid metabolism and circulation. Sometimes patients see results in as few as one or two sessions.

3. TENS Therapy

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a very helpful therapy that most physical therapists and chiropractors use to help patients with muscle tension and pain. However, studies have shown that regular TENS therapy in the affected area can help to reduce edema and swelling as well. Portable TENS units are usually available for home use, upon consultation and with the approval of your doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist. Since certain medical conditions are contraindicated for TENS therapy, I strongly advise that you consult a medical professional before home use.

4. Sweat It Out!

Infrared saunas, or simply being in a dry sauna, is extremely effective at helping the body to reduce inflammation, expel excess water retention, and sweat out toxicity. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to go to a sauna in the height of summer, it may just be one of the best ways to battle edema, just make sure that you stay hydrated at the same time.

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