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Natural Therapies for Swollen Ankles

man on sports field doing leg stretches
  Daily leg stretches help to keep my swelling at bay.

What Helps - My Personal Observations

There are a number of medical reasons ankles can swell up, including heart failure. As such, the condition should always be checked out by a doctor. However, in my case I've been to many doctors and no one ever found a cause for my condition. Listed below are the factors I've uncovered on my own to help me keep my ankles a normal size.

1. I realize now my ankles swell up because of muscle tightness constricting my blood flow to and from my feet. If I do yoga exercises where I stretch my arms upward and put a lot of tension on my legs, this causes my ankles to swell up afterwards. I realized this after I had physical therapy on my upper body for thoracic outlet syndrome and a frozen shoulder. My upper body got much better as the therapy progressed, but my ankles got swollen and painful from all of pulling as a result of the arm and shoulder exercises.

I did some checking on the web and noticed a number of medical sites do note the links between swollen ankles and factors that can cut off blood flow, such as varicose veins and blood clots, but I've never seen tight muscles listed as a cause. I suspect there may be other people who tend to suffer from fibromyalgia who have swollen ankles from knotted muscles putting pressure on veins and arteries.

In order to reduce muscle tension in my legs and swelling in my ankles, I've found a number of stretches that are helpful. The first one is where I lie on my back and put my legs up the wall for few minutes. I can usually see my ankles getting thinner just as I'm lying there.

The best book I've found with a wide variety of leg stretches is Stretching by Bob Anderson. It has a whole section called Leg and Groin Stretches with Feet Elevated, which all help my swollen ankles quite a bit. The legs up the wall stretch is illustrated in the book on page 91. Besides this section, I've found the standing stretches on p. 74 - 76 in this book also very helpful.

2. I flipped through the book, Acupressure for Common Ailments, and found there was a section on where to press if you have knee pain upon straightening your knee. That was exactly my problem. So I applied the pressure as instructed, and almost instantly my knee started to feel better and the ankle swelling decreased.

I think what had happened was that knotted muscles in my leg were crimping some of my veins and arteries. This prevented the blood from flowing upward, back into the rest of my body, and caused the blood to pool in my foot and ankle giving it a swollen appearance. By applying counter pressure to the trigger point, it loosened up the knots and let the blood flow better. This also relieved the muscular tension that had been pulling on my knee, causing pain in my knee cap. (The technical term for my knee problem was Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome).

I only had to do the acupressure a few times over the next day, and my leg, which had been sore for two weeks, went back to being even better than before I hurt it at the gym. Now it no longer hurt, but my ankle swelling went down, too. It worked so fast that my husband said that if he had not seen it for himself, he probably would not have believed it.

3. My ankles get worse if I sit at the computer for too long, especially if I cross my legs. So I try to take frequent breaks and try to elevate my feet throughout the day as much as possible.

I keep a foot stool under my desk and place the foot with the swelling on it. I think this serves two purposes: 1) it elevates my leg making it less of a journey for blood to circulate to and from my ankle to my heart; and 2) it stretches out my leg muscles which keeps them from crimping my veins and arteries.

4. My ankles get better when avoid foods with a lot of salt, especially Chinese food. I love Chinese food, so I eat it anyway, but not too often. When I do have it, I avoid the soups, which I think usually have the most salt. I also try to cut down on salt at home. I make a lot of my own soups from scratch. When I have time, I'll make up a big batch in the crock pot and freeze them, giving me a convenient meal at a future date without a lot of salt.

woman's feet in high heels
High heels may look more fashionable, but flat shoes keep my feet and ankles from swelling up.
feet in flat loafers

5. Wearing flat shoes or no shoes at all helps my ankles. Even a small heel makes a big difference in the swelling. Flat shoes may not be the most stylish, but for me they are easiest on my feet. I think this is because when my feet are tilted at an angle, it makes it harder for my heart to pump the blood to and from my feet and toes. So the blood pools up near my ankles.

6. My ankles get worse when I lift something heavy, push a heavy shopping cart, or as noted above do a yoga pose that put a strain my body, especially my legs. One of the worst episodes of swollen ankles for me occurred when I lifted a whitewater canoe all loaded down with camping gear. My ankle and whole leg was swollen for a couple of months after that.

Swollen Ankles and Heart Disease - What's the Cause and What's the Effect

Another thing I've noticed in the web medical literature is that doctors have noticed a link between swollen ankles and heart problems. The conventional medical view is that when the heart starts to malfunction, it means the heart is not being efficient in pumping blood through the legs, and as a result, blood pools in the ankles and feet. The American Heart Association notes that swollen ankles may be a sign of heart disease. Scroll down to the section on edema.

plastic model of a human with the heart showing through
  Yoga poses that place your feet up higher than the rest of your body help drain pooled blood from your feet back towards your heart.

That may well be true scenario for some people, but I suspect in some cases the medical profession may be mistaking cause and effect. In my case the tight muscles in my leg crimped my veins and arteries. In turn I suspect this must have put extra pressure on my heart, like water backing up to the faucet from the point of a bend in a garden hose. Both heart problems and tight muscles are very common in people like me with connective tissue disorders, and perhaps tight muscles cutting off circulation and putting extra pressure on heart muscles are a cause and effect relationship. In this case the heart disease is the effect, not the cause.



Related Pages:

Visit my home page or my site map to use my search feature, and see information on connective tissue disorders and related features.

See how yoga and trigger point therapy helped my knee pain.

Ayurveda and other natural therapies helped my sciatic pain.

If ankle and foot swelling are caused by a defective heart, changing your diet may help your heart function better.

If your jaws pop, knees creak and your shoulder crack, read about the therapies that helped me silence these sounds.


Visit my home page or my site map to use my search feature, and see information on connective tissue disorders and related features.


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