The skin is often considered the window into the internal body, as it can show what’s happening inside the body through skin changes.[1-3] For patients suffering from stasis dermatitis, this can be true as well. Stasis dermatitis is a skin disorder that occurs usually with older age and as a result of increased blood pressure in veins, leading to the backward flow of blood and insufficient circulation. This blood circulation problem most often occurs in the lower legs. The veins in your body usually have valves that help push blood back to the heart. Increased pressure on the veins in the legs leads to damage of the valves. Over time, these damaged valves can start to leak and decrease the blood flow. The backflow of blood can lead to inflammation and cause irritation of the lower legs, leading to pain, swelling, and even skin changes such as redness and inflammation. These symptoms can manifest in the clinical forms of leg swelling, varicose veins, a rash, or even open skin wounds.
While many treatment options are available for insufficient blood flow, ranging from compression stockings to medications and surgery, another option that is less invasive is exercise.[6,7] Walking and leg elevation can help lower the venous leg pressure and also alleviate leg pain associated with the increased pressure. Lower leg muscles contract on lower leg veins to help maintain blood flow back toward the heart in a process called the skeletal muscle pump.[8,9] Researchers found that when patients completed exercises to help improve calf muscles, they also improved the venous flow of blood. Exercise has been shown in studies to help improve patient quality of life in patients suffering from leg ulcers due to calf muscle pump dysfunction, but further research is needed.
Exercise Is a Holistic Treatment
Exercise is certainly a hot topic for exploration in holistic treatment options; one recent study examined patients using the exercises to test functional fitness including 30-second sit-to-stand test, chair sit and reach test, 6-minute walk test and ankle range of motion. The 30-second sit to stand test asked participants to sit down and stand up from the chair as fast as possible for 30 seconds. The sit and reach test asks participants to reach toward toes from a sitting position at front of a chair. The 6-minute walk test examined the distance participants can walk within the span of 6 minutes. The results of the study are still under analysis and should provide more information about how exercise can affect venous leg ulcers.
Yoga is an activity based on the connection between the mind and body from ancient India that has areas of physical activity, breath control, and meditation to promote wellness. In some clinical trials, yoga physical activity and breathing exercises have improved high blood pressure. It has also aided in reducing stress in dermatology clinical cases as well as many skin disorders, which can be emotionally distressing. While not extensively studied, yoga decreased inflammatory gene expression in a few studies and could be a treatment option worthy of further exploration.[18-20]
Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga are the forms focused on movement and physical postures. In studies of older adults, Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga helped improve mobility and balance through increasing muscular strength.[21-24] Since leg muscles are important in helping to maintain blood flow through the veins, yoga can help strengthen leg muscles to help to improve blood flow in leg veins, especially movement focused yoga poses.
Several possible poses to add to your yoga practice if you are suffering from vein insufficiency include:
1. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
2. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
4. Malasana (Garland Pose)
5. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
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