Swelling of the feet is a common problem among people of all ages. It might be caused by a minor injury, or it might be a sign of an underlying problem. Some of the main causes of swollen feet include edema, ankle and foot injuries, preeclampsia, infection, alcohol, hot weather, venous insufficiency, and lifestyle factors. Standing for long periods without taking enough breaks in between, can also lead to swollen feet. Whether your feet are swollen due to pregnancy complications, standing for long periods or you have a foot injury, here are some effective tips that will help to reduce the swelling and leave you feeling better.
Soak Feet in Epsom Salt
Epsom salt has been used thousands of years as a pain reliever and a healing agent. Therefore, if you have swollen feet or ankles due to pregnancy, an injury, illness or any other reason, soaking them in Epsom salt can help to alleviate the relieve the swelling and alleviate the pain. Once it’s added to warm water, the sulfate and the magnesium compounds present in Epsom salt are easily dissolved absorbed by the body through the skin. This salt will then remove the toxins in the body, which are causing inflammation and irritation. Apart from pain relief, an Epsom salt bath can also treat fungal infections, remove splinters and help with exfoliation. For faster results, it’s advisable to soak your feet for at least 30 to 60 minutes twice or thrice per week.
It’s important to note that Epsom feet soaks can lead to dry skin. Therefore, make sure you moisture your feet properly after soaking them in Epsom salt, to prevent irritation and cracked skin. Pregnant women and people with diabetes should first consult their physician before using Epsom salt, due to the high risk of infection. Also, if you have excessively dry skin, then you should use Epsom foot soaks moderately. When buying Epsom salts, make sure you purchase the ones that are designed for human use, preferably one with USP sign on the label.
While it might appear counterproductive to move around when your feet are swollen, exercising your leg and feet muscles can help to move the excess fluid back to the heart. Exercising your legs and feet regularly can also help to prevent swelling in the first place. Some of the exercises that can help to alleviate swelling in the feet include:
- Point and flex: This is a great foot stretching exercise, which helps to strengthen the foot while improving balance and boosting blood circulation. You can perform it while seated on the floor or on a chair.
- Toe stretch: Ensuring that your big toe has a wide range of motion is vital. And this is where this exercise comes in. It will stretch the big toe, relieve pain and boost circulation. The stretching motion will also loosen the plantar fascia while relaxing the joints and muscles in your ankles and lower leg.
- Ankle circles: This exercise helps to loosen the connective tissue in the ankles while strengthening ankle muscles – for improved stability and balance. Also, you can use it as part of your stretching routine, if you are planning to go for a jog. To perform this exercise, you simply need to plant both feet on a flat surface, lift one foot slightly and then rotate the ankle gently. Do the same with the other foot.
- Tennis ball massage: As much as this may not count as an exercise per se, massaging your feet gently with a tennis ball can help to increase circulation. To do it, you simply need to place a tennis ball under your foot and then roll your foot over it, back and forth. Do it for 30 seconds and then switch to the other foot.
Exercising and stretching the feet regularly will make them more flexible and strengthen them, thus helping to prevent some foot ailments. And the good news is that most foot stretching exercises are simple, and they don’t require complicated or expensive equipment. Besides, you can do them anywhere – at home, at the office, or at the gym, among other places.
Make Some Lifestyle Changes
As noted earlier, there are various factors that can lead to swollen feet such as kidney diseases, heart diseases, tendon and bone conditions, drug side effects, being overweight, as well as standing for long periods. While serious swelling might require medical intervention, undertaking some lifestyle changes will help to relieve mild swelling. So, which lifestyle changes can you make for swollen feet?
If your work involves standing or sitting for long periods, you should make sure you move around and stretch at least every two hours. You can also take frequent walks from one station to the other, instead of sending someone. If you are overweight, then you should consider shedding the excess calories through regular exercise and proper diet. Also, you should ensure that you drink enough water throughout the day, which will flush out toxins from your body. When resting, you should elevate your feet above your heart’s level. Elevating the feet will boost circulation while helping to take the pressure off the veins in your legs.
Change Your Diet
Making some dietary changes can also help to reduce the swelling on your feet. First, make sure you reduce sodium intake. Consuming excessive salt can lead to water retention, which will then cause swelling in your feet and around your ankles. Avoid all foods with high-sodium content and instead opt for reduced-salt options. Also, you should avoid using too much table salt when cooking or adding it to food when you are eating. Eating fresh fruits may also help to alleviate the swelling on your feet.
Choose fruits with high water content like grapes, watermelon, pineapples, oranges, cantaloupe and pears. Snacking on these fruits will keep your stomach full, thus helping you to avoid consuming packaged and processed foods – which usually contain high amounts of sodium. You should also increase vegetable intake. Some vegetables like leafy greens, beets, onions, leeks and asparagus can act as natural diuretics. Also, you should void adding too much salt to your vegetable dishes and salads. In short, always remember to keep the sodium level in all your foods as low as possible.
Get a Comfortable Pair of Shoes
Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to numerous foot problems, especially for pregnant women or people who spend the entire day on their feet. Pain, discomfort, and swelling are usually the most common symptoms and they can point to various conditions like metatarsalgia, capsulitis, Morton’s neuroma, and plantar fasciitis, among others. Also, wearing shoes that are either too tight or they don’t offer adequate support can lead to issues like tired muscles, as well as inflammation, swelling and soreness in the ankles, feet and lower legs. Therefore, if you want to minimize swelling in your feet, reduce pain and discomfort, and prevent long-term leg and foot complications, it’s important to wear the right shoes for the activity you are doing. A comfortable, roomy fit and adequate arch support are a must for swollen feet. Your work shoes or training shoes should also have ample breathability, sufficient cushioning as well as a spacious toe box, to allow your toes to move freely. A larger toe box will also accommodate swollen toes comfortably. Avoid shoes with high heels or any type of footwear that fits too tightly or puts pressure on any part of your feet.
If you have tried all the above measures and they don’t seem to work as you had expected, you should visit a foot specialist. Your physician will examine your legs and feet to see whether the swelling or inflammation might be caused by something more serious. During the visit, the physician might ask you whether you are taking any medications since some drugs can lead to swollen feet. Anti-depressants, hormone-based pills and high blood pressure medications may lead to this problem. Some steroids might also leave you with swollen feet. Your doctor will then conduct some tests, depending on the extent of the problem, and then recommend an appropriate treatment plan.