I have recently had a few patients ask me whether acupuncture can help or treat varicose veins. The majority of cases that I have seen involve an early stage form of varicose veins, which is commonly called spider veins. Spider veins result from dilated capillaries near the skin’s surface due to the blood in the veins not being pumped efficiently and effectively back to the heart.
This stage is more aesthetically displeasing rather than painful or life threatening.
Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted. Varicose veins most commonly occur on the legs, but they can occur elsewhere on the body. Veins have pairs of leaflet valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards. Leg muscles pump the veins to return the blood back to the heart against the effects of gravity.
Varicose veins occur when the leaflets of the veins no longer meet properly and the valves do not work, thus allowing blood to flow backwards and enlarging the veins.
This condition is most common in the superficial veins of the legs.
Symptoms of varicose veins
- aching and heavy legs
- appearance of spider veins
- ankle swelling
- venous eczema
- cramps when making a sudden move or standing up
- restless leg syndrome
- minor injuries to the area may bleed more than normal or take a long time to heal
Varicose veins are more common in women than in men, and are linked with heredity.
- prolonged standing
- leg injury
- abdominal straining.
For severe varicose veins, surgery is obviously the fastest option. This involves removal of all or part of the saphenous vein in the leg.
What I like about Chinese Medicine and acupuncture is that typically it goes deeper into exploring the cause of the problem and not just getting rid of the most obvious symptom.
Why do varicose veins occur?
From the Chinese Medicine perspective, varicose veins are a reflection of not only local blood stagnation in the legs, but more importantly widespread systemic blood flow compromise. The most common factors being diet, long-term standing positions, weight and age.
It is important to realize that the majority of people will show some form of venous collateral damage (usually around the ankles) after a certain age. These are thin dilations and should not bother most people. Varicose veins become a problem when they become engorged and pop out of the leg, usually reaching up to the knee area, looking like purplish blue colored and tortuous pipes. In Chinese Medicine we see this problem as a reflection of overall blood flow impairment, which can manifest as various types of ailments. The more worrisome complications and coexisting conditions include blood pressure problems, blood lipid abnormalities, chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease and diabetes.
It is important to realize that treatment of this condition with acupuncture takes time with consideration to how severe and chronic the case is, but it works on total body wellness and prevention of future problems arising from blood flow compromises at the same time.