You may have heard that increased blood circulation during exercise can lead to puffy and swollen veins. This explanation is only partially true. If you suffer with varicose veins, you may notice that your veins are more swollen after exercise, but otherwise your swollen veins may simply be the result of bulging muscles. Unless your veins are painful and tender, it's a common reaction and nothing to be worried about.
Swollen veins after a workout can be attributed to two common problems. Some may explain the puffiness by increased blood flow, but Mark A. W. Andrews, professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine tells "Scientific American" that the theory is incorrect. Veins actually become less pressurized with more blood flow. Instead, the problem is caused by muscles that bulge when you do exercises. The muscles then push the veins closer to the surface of the skin, making them look puffy and pronounced.
Varicose veins are the other culprit when it comes to swollen veins after exercise. Varicose veins occur mostly in the legs and are veins that malfunction and do not pump blood efficiently. Because of this, blood is left in the veins, which become prominent and noticeable, particularly if you stand for a long period of time.
Veins that swell directly after exercise and as the result of exercise typically are not painful. You may notice that they look puffy but the puffiness is generally short lived and your veins soon go back to normal. Veins that are puffy after exercise and can be classified as varicose veins can sometimes make the affected limbs feel heavy and achy. You may also notice that your skin is swollen as well as the veins, and see a brownish discoloration as part of the reaction and subsequent varicose vein flare-up.
You needn't take any special action if your swollen veins are simply the result of a strenuous workout. As your muscles retract after exercise, your veins will become less noticeable, but may appear again when you exercise once more. If your swollen legs are the result of varicose veins, sit and elevate your legs to improve circulation and draw the blood out of your puffy veins.
You don't need any special prevention methods for veins that pop out only after a workout. It's a normal occurrence and is not dangerous. However, if your swollen veins can be attributed to varicose veins, the blue streaks criss-crossing your legs are always noticeable and sometimes painful. Exercise methods that don't require you to stand for long periods of time, such as swimming, can help you avoid flare ups. Or, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Vein stripping and other surgeries can be used so you can finally exercise without swollen veins.
- "Scientific American"; Why Do Veins Pop out when Exercising, and is That Good or Bad?; Mark A. W. Andrews; Nov. 2006
- MedlinePlus: Varicose Veins
- Vein Health: Running and Spider Veins
- "Tamilee Webb's Defy Gravity Workout: The Revolutionary Program That Lifts and Tones Your Entire Body"; Tamilee Webb; 2005