Foot or ankle swelling is called edema. Many things, including high blood pressure and pregnancy, can cause this problem. Edema in your feet and ankles occurs when your body is unable to push blood and fluids in them up your legs, so that your ankles and feet swell. Swelling in the feet and ankles is relatively common nowadays given our current lifestyles. The swelling itself is not a disease, although it could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
What are the causes of ankle swelling?
Edema alone is not harmful and not a big concern, although it is pretty uncomfortable. However, if the ankle swelling develops all of a sudden or gets worse with time, you should call your doctor right away. The reason for this is that the swelling may be caused by a more serious condition such as a blood clot, and you should waste no time before seeing a doctor to address the issue, as it could lead to fatal consequences.
Some of the common causes of ankle edema are the following:
- Infection in your lower legs, ankles, or feet. Infection of this type is a more common problem among people with diabetic neuropathy.
- Trauma to your feet or ankles such as an ankle sprain.
- A blood clot blocking your lower leg veins. Blood clots may even form within both the superficial and deep veins. Having blood clots is dangerous because these clots can break off, travel to your heart and lungs, and cause death.
- Pregnancy alone can give rise to ankle swelling.
- Ankle swelling is one of the common symptoms of right-sided heart failure.
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Intake of certain medications
- Some injury to the ankle or feet
- Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, liver failure, or alcoholism.
- Those individuals who spend a lot of time standing or sitting with little movement are at greater risk of developing swelling in the ankles and feet.
- Some women can have a slight swelling in their ankles or feet prior to the onset of their periods.
Since the swelling depends on the underlying cause, the symptoms may range from painful swelling to painless swelling. In addition, individuals may experience other symptoms such as a change in the skin's color and texture, the skin feeling warm, and ulcers with pus drainage. How the edema is treated is based on the underlying cause of the swelling. In some individuals, the swelling abates on its own without any treatment, whereas in others, several treatments may be required.
Ankle swelling is not actually a disease, but just a symptom. The best way to treat the swelling is to manage the underlying cause. But whatever the underlying reason, the following remedies will help you reduce the swelling in your ankles while you are in the process of having the underlying cause of your edema treated.
1. Keep your feet elevated
Ankle swelling is often the first symptom you experience. The reason is that gravity facilitates the accumulation of fluids in the lower legs. Thus, the best remedy is to keep your legs elevated to help your body drain that excess fluid. Ideally, you have to keep your legs elevated at a level above your heart.
Elevating the feet helps to decrease the swelling and the pain. One way of doing this is to lie on the couch with pillows underneath the feet. The effect of this position is far different from sitting on a chair with the feet on a footstool, which is an ineffective position for your purpose. The foot should be kept in an elevated position for at least two to three hours in one day. You can take short breaks in between to move freely.
2. Take magnesium supplements
One cause of edema is magnesium deficiency. Therefore, taking magnesium supplements can help you get some relief. The recommended dose of magnesium is 200 mg twice a day, but if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking them.
Magnesium is very important for absorbing the calcium in the body so as to maintain healthy bones. Certain reports suggest that extra magnesium intake can lead to a reduction in water retention and other negative effects. Studies also suggest that magnesium may also interfere with the health of those individuals who are suffering from heart disease and kidney disease.
Hence, in any instance, it is best to consult your doctor before taking any magnesium supplements. Beware of overdosing on magnesium. Diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and heartburn are some of the side effects caused by an overdose of magnesium.
One can also opt for magnesium in its natural form, as the mineral is available in peanuts, whole grains, spinach, and nuts. If an individual does not get enough magnesium in his or her regular diet, they could suffer a calcium deficiency.
Magnesium supplements are available in powder and tablet form. Before you start supplementing on magnesium, it is best to visit the doctor and have a blood check, so you know the correct dosage for you and can avoid an overdose.
3. Do some yoga
Exercise is another simple remedy that will help you get rid of that ankle swelling. Doing some yoga will get you moving and help improve your circulatory system.
If it would be your first time to do yoga, then you should speak with your doctor before starting. Take a class first, if you are really new to yoga. Having a yoga instructor will ensure that you are doing all those poses correctly. Your instructor might even recommend poses specifically to get rid of your edema.
Point and flex is a simple exercise for the feet that helps in improving circulation by providing mobility to the feet and ankles. It can be performed while standing, sitting, or lying down. Suppose you are sitting on a chair with one foot on the ground, with the other foot elevated several inches from the floor. Keep your back straight and arms at the sides of your body. Now point your elevated foot away from the lower leg. Stretch as much as you can but note not to strain or overstretch. Stretch forward for at least five seconds and then flex it in the opposite direction, towards yourself, and hold this position for five seconds.
Continuing doing this for ten times before you switch to the other foot. This exercise is simple and can be done thrice or more in a day. The point and flex and exercise can be taken to a different level by rotating the foot in a circle ten times clockwise, and then ten times anti-clockwise. Switch to the foot and do the same exercise. Doing the exercise improves blood circulation and also reduces the swelling in the feet. Cramps in the calf muscles can also be avoided.
Pregnant women can also go for small walks, since these can lead to relief from the retention of fluid that is trapped inside the foot and ankle tissue. But note that one should not overdo walking, since it could worsen the swelling. Walk for about 20 to 30 minutes a day or as per the body’s limit.
4. Massage your ankles and feet
Get yourself a massage. A massage is not just comfortable and relaxing, but also beneficial in reducing the swelling in your ankles. If you have a session with a massage therapist, be specific about your problem so the therapist can focus on your ankles to reduce the swelling.
If you are pregnant, it is better to find a therapist who specializes in prenatal massage. They know how to make you more comfortable and do what is best for you and suited to your condition.
5. Soak your feet in some water with Epsom salts
Immerse your feet in a cool bath with Epsom salts for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day. It is very important to apply only cold in the first few days of the swelling, since the application of heat could cause additional inflammation in the initial phase of healing process.
Epsom salts help reduce the pain associated with the swelling, and soothe the connective tissue and muscles. If you are suffering from diabetic neuropathy, make sure that the water is not at extreme temperatures to prevent unpleasant consequences.
6. Lose some weight
Weight can be another reason for ankle swelling, so losing a bit of weight to come within a healthy range can help you reduce the swelling. Losing weight not only helps with the swelling, but also improves your overall health.
To reduce weight, one can go on a restricted-calorie diet that includes only those foods that are healthy. Also, reduce the intake of salt since it can lead to worsening the swelling of the ankles and feet. Include some weight loss exercises such as running and jumping jacks, which involve the movement of the feet. This would make the muscles firm and also tone the muscles around the calves and ankle areas.
7. Drink more water
An excess amount of salt in your system also contributes to ankle edema. There is a need for you to drink a lot of water to dilute all that salt in your body. It is recommended that you drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. Something that can make this even better is mixing some cucumber and lemon slices in the drinking water.
In addition to drinking water, one can eat foods that contain water to reduce the symptoms of excess salt. There are various fruits and vegetables that are high in water content and which can enhance the effects of drinking water. One can eat watermelon, cucumbers, and onion. If one is bored with drinking plain water all the time, then drink some herbal or green tea that contains ginger or dandelion to help reduce edema of the feet. Before going for these teas, one can check with the doctor to ask whether they would interfere with any of the medicines or supplements you are taking.
8. Just float in a pool of water
Swimming or even just floating in water will help reduce your ankle edema. The pressure from the water will help the accumulated fluid in your feet and ankles to move up. Floating in water also gives your circulatory system a break from the effects of gravity.
9. Use compression socks
Compression socks can help you reduce associated pain as well as prevent fluid accumulation in your legs, ankles, and feet. Compression stockings are readily available in pharmacies and grocery stores. These socks are available in light-, medium-, and heavyweight varieties, so choose something that is not too heavy and too tight for your legs. It is better to start off with lightweight compression socks.
Compression socks help to improve the flow of blood. They are very helpful in reducing the pain and the swelling in the ankles or leg. They also lower the chances of blood clot formation and deep vein thrombosis. These socks or stockings are stretchy and gently squeeze the legs, remove tiredness from the legs, and helps your legs avoid any kind of aches.
10. Take a bath in a tub of water with a few drops of grapefruit essential oil
A nice, warm bath with a few drops of grapefruit essential oil mixed in will allow you to have a relaxing time and at the same time help you to reduce the swelling in your ankles.
If you do not like the idea, then you can just add a few drops of grapefruit essential oil to a small bowl of warm water and keep your feet soaked in it for a few minutes.
11. Cold Compression Therapy
Individuals suffering from ankle or foot swelling can go in for cold therapy in the comfort of their homes. Cold compression uses the concept of RICE and takes it to a different level, but it also mixes in modern technology. Rather than placing ice packs on the ankles, one can use cold therapy.
This system uses a body-conforming wrap that has integrated chambers that allow cold, pressurized water to flow through this wrap. This cold water, which is constantly circulating, remains in the same therapeutic temperature. Pressurized air helps create a pumping effect, which rapidly decreases swelling, thus reducing healing time.
The result of cold compression therapy is very long-lasting. It uses deeper-penetrating cold, which helps to heal the damaged tissue faster. This therapy is very convenient and does not require too much work, since all one has to do is add ice and water to the reservoir of the system, apply the wrap, elevate the legs, and rest while this device carries on its work.