Cold Feet, Warm... Heart? Secrets of Circulation
Last month we talked about paraffin wax baths, which is now a new treatment available at PodCo. We have already had a few of you call in and take advantage so we thought this month we’d discuss lower leg and foot circulation to give you all a better understanding of how paraffin wax baths might benefit you.
Some of you will know what it feels like to have poor circulation with the added discomfort of chilblains during the colder months. Others may have problems with dry cracked skin as a result of age or a chronic disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Whatever your issue, understanding how your blood circulates is an essential part of looking after your feet and legs.
Veins and Arteries
There are two main types of vessels that carry blood around your body – arteries and veins.
Arteries have muscular walls which, as they contract, push oxygen-rich blood around your body. The pulses that you can feel at different points on your body are the arteries contracting.
Veins, on the other hand, are elastic rather than muscular and contain valves to stop blood from flowing backwards.
Joining these two is a network of smaller vessels called arterioles, venules and capillaries being the smallest. As the blood from the arteries flows through these channels, nutrients and oxygen are deposited into the surrounding cells. Any waste products and carbon dioxide is picked up and sent through the veins back to the heart and lungs.
The Calf Pump
Being bipedal has its disadvantages when it comes to the pull of gravity on the blood. Thankfully, our anatomy is structured in such a way that all you need to do is move your limbs and the blood gets pushed, against gravity, toward your heart.
The position of your veins inside your legs means that every time your leg muscles contract, the veins are squeezed and the blood moves upward.
In the last few years, we have been seeing a lot of people suffering with chilblains.
Chilblains used to be very common in the days when our home and work environments weren’t as well insulated and heated as they are today. This meant our extremities – hands, feet, ears and noses – were exposed to the cold for longer.
Chilblains form when the cold part of your body is heated too quickly. When this happens, the communicating vessels that control blood flow to the surface of the skin (to help cool you down on hot days) or away from it (to stop you from cooling down too quickly on cold days) go into spasm. This leads to a patch of red, swollen skin, similar in size to a large mosquito bite, often itchy and painful. For those with thinner skin, they often break down into sores. Unfortunately, once you have a chilblain you just have to put up with the discomfort until it goes away which usually takes 2-4 weeks.