Veins are supposed to contain valves that keep blood from backing up. When the valves cannot close properly, veins become varicose, blood backs up, causing the veins to widen and look like blue snakes underneath the skin. Since varicose veins swell because blood pools in them, the best treatment is to empty blood from the veins. When you exercise, your leg muscles alternately contract and relax squeezing blood back toward the heart, so running, walking, cycling, skiing, skating and dancing are ideal treatments, while standing or sitting increase blood pooling and widen the veins.
Varicose veins can be caused by a genetic weakness in the valves or an obstruction of blood flow, such as by obesity, pregnancy, tumors, clots or heart disease. Superficial varicose veins that you can see can cause a feeling of heaviness or aching, but they are rarely painful. Most varicose veins are best left alone. If you develop severe pain, usually in the veins in your calf muscles, you have to worry about a clot and should check with your doctor. Otherwise, exercise is the best medicine for varicose veins.
If you have varicose veins, you may benefit from wearing support hose when you stand around, but not when you exercise.
Veins in your legs carry blood up toward your heart. When you stand up, gravity pulls blood down to your feet. Support hose squeeze the legs and help to prevent blood from pooling in veins and distending them.
When you exercise, the force of your contracting muscles keep blood from pooling so you don’t need support hose. The pumping action of your leg muscles during exercise exerts such a strong force to empty your veins, that you don’t need support hose. In hot weather, the support hose can act as a barrier to prevent heat loss. Your body temperature may rise and you may tire earlier. If you have varicose veins, support hose help to keep the veins from swelling when you stand, but it is unlikely that they are needed during exercise.