It may sound simple, but getting blood to circulate around the body is key to sustaining mobility in your legs, feet, hands and fingers. When there is not enough blood flowing along the arteries and capillaries, then issues can crop up.
For instance, sitting or standing for extended periods of time can cause reduced sensation and ‘peripheral circulation’ – otherwise known as restricted or reduced blood flow. Symptoms can include cold hands and feet, muscle aches and cramps, pain, pins and needles or decreased feeling on touch.
10 Methods to Improve Your Peripheral Circulation
There are actually a number of simple steps you can take to improve your peripheral circulation, whether you are at home or out and about.
1. Firstly, avoid sitting for long periods. Try to simply adjust your position once every half an hour, as a minimum, to avoid being motionless for too long.
2. Next, you could try shaking and stretching your hands and feet. Carefully circle your wrists, shake your hands and tap your feet on the floor at the same time for maximum effect.
3. Additionally, make sure you are positioned in a way that encourages circulation when you are sitting down. Avoid crossing your legs as this reduces blood flow to your leg tissue. Instead, sit with your legs slightly apart and support your feet with either the floor or a low foot-stool.
4. Keeping warm is also essential. Always make sure your hands and feet are warm, particularly for outings in cold weather, and wear socks indoors. If it helps use a hot water bottle to make sure you stay cosy.
5. Try not to wear any items of clothing that may restrict blood flow to your feet – elasticated socks and belts, for instance. Compression hosiery (available through your GP or to purchase in your local pharmacy) is designed to stabilise the leg tissue and can help circulation if you feel you need some extra help.
6. Moving about in your home, even if only a small amount, is also beneficial – and even better if you can get outdoors too. Walking stimulates the opening of blood vessels in the lower legs, not only improving your circulation but also increasing sensation. Wearing low-heeled shoes with plenty of cushioning would also be helpful.
7. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is also essential. Drink plenty of water, and restrict the amount of high-fat foods in your diet. Equally, if you are a regular smoker, aim to seek support with quitting. Smoking creates tar build-up within the arteries, thus restricting blood flow – but your local health centre or GP is always on hand to offer support and advice if you’re finding it tough.
8. Exercise can also play a big part in increasing blood flow – and it doesn’t have to be super strenuous! Simple tasks such as walking, housework or swimming are exactly the sorts of gentle exercise that will aid your circulation. Within weeks you will notice a difference! Turning to more cardio-based activities once you have got used to more simple exercises is also an option once you feel ready for it.
Take a look at Stannah stairlift's exercise programme designed by Kate Sheehan, one of the country’s leading OT’s, for more exercise-inspired ideas.
9. If exercise isn’t an option, try using a body brush to massage yourself and thus increase the blood flow. Try to find time to relax in a typical day as stress can also have a negative effect on your circulation.
10. Another lesser known way to help is called ‘the cold and hot treatment’, which involves putting the most-affected areas in warmth and then alternating to cold. The easiest way to do this is alternating the temperature whilst you are in the shower.
Peripheral circulation and sensation is not something we hear about often but improving it will have a really positive effect, bringing all the benefits of feeling healthier and happier.