How to increase circulation in lower legs

Updated February 21, 2017

Poor circulation in the legs can be caused by hardening of the arteries, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Symptoms may include numbness in the legs, tingling in the legs or toes, changes in skin colour, such as redness, paleness or blue casts, cold skin temperature and development of leg ulcers. If you develop sores or ulcers on your legs that do not heal, you may have poor circulation. You will need to get a medical examination to determine the cause of poor leg circulation before treatment can begin. There are certain steps you can take to increase circulation in your legs.

Get a medical examination. You will need to see your doctor to determine if and why your have poor leg circulation. After your doctor diagnoses your condition, he may prescribe medication based on the cause. Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure that will help your circulatory system work more effectively, thereby increasing and improving circulation in your legs.

Wear compression stockings. Compression stockings work to compress the veins, and this increases blood flow. This may avoid slow blood flow that is implicated in the formation of blood clots. Compression stockings will also help fluids from accumulating in legs and ankles.

Start exercising. Mild exercise can improve blood flow in the legs and increase circulation in the lower legs. If you will be sitting for long periods of time, such as when travelling in an aeroplane, try to make little circling motions with your ankles to move the blood in your veins. Whenever you can, take short walks to increase circulation in your legs and prevent excess fluid build up.

Keep your legs warm. Increasing the temperature of your legs and keeping them warm will increase their circulation. When you go to bed, wear a pair of warm socks, and keep your legs covered with a warm blanket. Never put a heating pad on your legs if you have poor circulation because this condition causes your legs to become less sensitive to pain and temperature. When your legs are less sensitive to temperature, you are more likely to get burnt from the heating pad.

Massage your legs. Massaging your legs can stimulate circulation; however, if you have pain or redness in your calf, never massage your leg. Pain or redness in your calf can signify a blood clot, and by massaging it, you may dislodge it. Dislodging a blood clot can be life-threatening, as it can travel to the heart and lungs.

Elevate your legs. When you are lying down, support the backs of your knees with pillows. This will prevent back flow of blood to the legs and encourage blood return to the heart.


Quit smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure. Increased blood pressure can contribute to poor circulation in the legs. Not only does smoking contribute to high blood pressure, it may contribute to many other medical conditions including cancer.


Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe leg pain, numbness, shortness of breath or chest pain. This can signify a blood clot, and is a medical emergency.

Things You'll Need

  • Medication examination
  • Compression stockings
  • Prescribed medication
  • Warm socks
  • Pillow
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About the Author

Meadow Milano has been a registered nurse for over 20 years, with extensive experience in emergency nursing, labor and delivery and general medicine. She has written numerous articles for nursing publications pertaining to health and medicine, and enjoys teaching in the clinical setting.