7 Methods People With Chronic Illness Use to Improve Their Circulation
Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.
Poor circulation can be caused by a number of different health conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, anxiety or Raynauds phenomenon. Many of those in the chronic illness community may also struggle with it if their disease or disability affects their weight or limits their ability to move around and be active. Circulation issues can cause a wide range of symptoms such as numbness, pain, muscle cramps or coldness in the extremities and may exacerbate any pre-existing swelling, tightness, tension or pain.
While improving circulation may not cure your underlying conditions, it can still have important benefits for your overall health and may help relieve some of your pain and other symptoms.
We wanted to know how people with chronic illness cope with circulation issues, so we asked our Mighty community to share the products or techniques they use to improve their circulation. Here are their recommendations.
We hope the products below, all recommended by our Mighty community members, help you or a loved one in your health journeys. Just so you know, The Mighty may collect a share of sales from the Amazon links on this page.
Massage therapy can help relax the muscles, releasing stress and tension and reducing soreness and stiffness. This allows blood – which carries oxygen and vital nutrients – to reach the muscles and tissues being massaged. While you can certainly book an appointment with a local licensed massage therapist, there are also a variety of products you can use on yourself, whether you’re at home or out and about.
“Massage and movement are key!” said Sophy Miles. “Anything to stimulate the blood flow and muscles – especially to peripheral areas.”
“Foot massager,” wrote Acadia Murphy. “Best thing I bought myself.”
Claire Allen told us, “I do the push massage and this may sound weird but I use a frozen water bottle on my foot. I injured my foot badly a few years ago and it healed badly as well and now has permanent damage. The moment I try to put weight on it, I will fall. So now I use a frozen water bottle and roll my foot back and forth over it to stimulate and also loosen the muscles. It may sound weird, but it works. I think it’s the shock of cold that gets it going. I do this every time I need or want to stand and it helps so much.”
2. Compression Wear
Compression garments help improve blood flow by reducing swelling or edema and “squeezing” the muscles to ensure the valves in your veins close so blood does not flow backward (which causes blood pooling in the extremities) and is returned to the heart.
Carmen Virginia Dowling told us, “Compression wear because I have lymphedema. They help with circulation and fluid.”
Colleen Sullivan suggested, “Mediven 20-30mmHg support hose. Love them. I have left leg lymphedema (mostly in my thigh and hip), left leg old style vein stripping, left leg vein ablations and one on the right. It’s a great pain reliever. Helps with the fluid retention immensely.”
“Athletic socks – they squeeze just enough and function as socks,” wrote Caroline Lalliss.
3. Heating Products
When your arteries and veins are exposed to heat, they will expand and allow more blood to flow through. You can warm up your body with various heating products, but simply taking a warm bath or drinking a warm beverage can help too.
Sian Emilyy told us, “I have an electric blanket on my bed and lots of heat packs, hot water bottles, etc. Heat always gets my extremities warmed up and feeling better in no time. Not a long-term fix but it certainly helps.”
For more ideas, check out 20 heating products our community recommends.
4. Essential Oils
Different essential oils are known to have different healing properties, both physical and emotional, but several in particular may help reduce inflammation, relax the nervous system or even act as vasodilators, making the blood vessels larger to allow for more blood flow.
“Essential oils,” said Francesca Gunn. “I made a roller bottle with juniper, grapefruit, rosemary and fennel blend.”
Lindsey Russell recommended cypress essential oil.
5. Exercise and Movement
Doing aerobic exercises will increase your heart rate and boost the functioning of your circulatory system, helping the blood flow throughout your body. Certain illnesses may cause certain exercises to be difficult or potentially harmful to your body, so make sure to talk to your doctor about which types of exercises are best for you. Whether you’re hitting the gym or doing some gentle stretching at home, moving your body in whatever way you are able can have helpful benefits.
“Movement. One minute dance parties. Even lying down when needed,” suggested Anne-Marie Rosché.
Kate Greenaway said she does gentle stretches and as much walking as she can. Sophy Miles added that swimming can be a fantastic exercise as well to help improve blood flow.
For tips on exercising with an illness or disability, check out simple exercises you can do in a wheelchair or sitting down and gentle exercises you can do if you have chronic pain.
6. Acupressure Mat
Although lying down on a lot of sharp little points might not sound super enticing, many people find that acupressure mats are actually quite comfortable and relaxing. The points trigger (but don’t actually puncture!) the skin, stimulating blood flow in the area.
You’ve probably heard at one point or another that our bodies are made up of mostly water. The same goes for blood: Plasma, which makes up more than half of your total blood volume, is 93 percent water. In order to keep blood flowing properly (and serve a variety of other vital functions), it is super important to stay hydrated. That’s why our staff pick is a water bottle – something you can keep with you all day as a reminder. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water each day, but this number can be affected by certain conditions, climates and activity levels, so be sure to check in with your doctor to see what amount is right for you.
Our pick: CamelBak 1-Liter Water Bottle ($9.76)
What products do you use to improve circulation? Let us know in the comments below!