Many athletes experience a condition known as exercise-induced edema after working out. You might not be familiar with this term, but chances are you will recognize the symptoms. Have you ever had trouble taking off a ring after going for a run? Do your feet and ankles swell after athletic activity? These might be symptoms of exercise-induced edema.
Edema is essentially a buildup of excess fluid that causes puffiness or swelling. There are many potential causes of this condition, such as:
- Changes in blood flow during exercise
- Poor circulation
- High or low blood pressure
- Exposure to high or low temperatures
In many cases, exercise-induced edema is a minor inconvenience that causes temporary discomfort. However, if you experience this type of swelling and it does not subside within a few hours after activity, it could be a sign of a larger medical issue and you should consult a physician.
Preventing Exercise-Induced Edema
Prevention of an injury is preferable to treatment of an uncomfortable condition like swelling after exercise. Here are some edema prevention tactics you can try:
Stay Hydrated and Consume Less Salt
Eating processed foods and consuming a lot of salt can lead to water retention, which contributes to exercise-induced swelling. This can be compounded if you don’t drink enough water. Hydrate before, during, and after exercise and try to avoid excess salt in your diet to help prevent swelling.
One reason for swelling in extremities is that blood flows quickly to hands and feet during exercise, but poor circulation does not return it fast enough. You can help prevent this by periodically pumping your fists while raising your arms above your head and doing half-circles with your legs and arms. These actions help promote circulation in the extremities.
Check Your Form
Poor posture and incorrect form can contribute to poor circulation during exercise. Try to maintain a neutral spine position and notice the placement of your arms and hands while you’re exercising. If you tend to clench your fists, stretch your hands every now and then to get the blood moving.
Check Your Gear
Athletic shirts, shorts, pants, and shoes should not be so tight that they are constricting. When clothing is too tight, the blood and fluids that flow to the extremities during exercise can’t always flow back, which leads to swelling. Make sure you have loose-fitting clothing and properly sized footwear before beginning exercise. Many athletes also find that compression socks can help prevent the formation of edema.
Treating Exercise-Induced Edema
Most of the time, exercise-induced edema will clear up on its own with rest after activity. However, you can accelerate the healing process in a couple of ways:
Elevation uses gravity to help promote the flow of excess fluid away from the affected area. If you experience swelling in the feet, ankles, or lower legs, try putting your feet up after exercise. If the swelling is in your hands or wrists, try elevating your hands above the level of your heart.
Use Compression Therapy
Intermittent compression therapy actively pumps edema away from the areas where it has collected. Compression therapy works by forcing air through chambers in a body-conforming wrap. As the wrap expands and contracts, excess fluids are pumped away. Consistent compression prevents the fluid from returning and helps treat exercise-induced edema so you can regain normal range of motion and help eliminate the associated discomfort.
Many athletic trainers and physical therapists have access to the type of equipment that provides active compression, so if exercise-induced edema is a problem for you, ask about using Game Ready after training sessions and games. If you would like to learn more about compression therapy and its many benefits, download our free Comparison Guide of Rehab Cold & Compression Systems today.