The Little Things
September 23, 2014

One very common symptom of POTS is blood pooling in the legs. This causes dizziness and lightheadedness (this is behind my brief black outs and losing my vision). Here’s a quote that helps to explain it:

“When a healthy individual stands up, gravity causes about 10-15% of his or her blood to settle in the abdomen, legs, and arms. This pooling of blood means that less blood reaches the brain, the result of which can be a feeling of lightheadedness, seeing stars, darkening of vision, or even fainting. For most of us, this lightheaded feeling is infrequent when we stand up because the leg muscles help pump blood back up to the heart, and because the body turns on a series of rapid reflex responses” (source). For those of us with POTS, however, this isn’t the case, and can be a {very} regular experience.

For example, a few weeks ago I could tell that my heart was pounding pretty hard, but all I had done that day was sit on the couch, and I wasn’t anxious. I tried to drink some salt water, and that still didn’t help, so I was at a loss. Then I thought to try putting on my compression sleeves, and was shocked when I had to struggle hard to get them over my calves. My legs were that swollen because blood was pooling there, and my body couldn’t function well enough to stop it from happening.

So what do I do in situations like this?

I just had my parents send me the copy of the notes I received when I was first diagnosed with POTS. This is what the doctor at Mayo wrote in my notes: ” Since the symptoms are worse in the afternoon and since there is good evidence that continued standing results in a loss of plasma volume due to transudation of fluid by capillaries, I suggested the simple measure of lying down with her legs above heart level for an hour in the afternoon”.

Post Long Run Relief

And that’s what I do. While I no longer do an hour a day most days (only if I’m feeling particularly dizzy in the afternoon or evening), I do often sit with my legs up in the air for maybe 15-20 minutes many days. This is especially true before and after races or long runs- I even have Melissa doing it now!

I did this just the other week at work. My heart started to pound during a session, but I knew it was POTS related, so as soon as the session ended, I closed my door and put my legs up against the wall for about 10 minutes. It made a significant difference, and was able to get through my last two hours of the work day without feeling dizzy. I went home and put them up for another 30ish minutes, and was able to get enough blood out of my legs that I was able to go out for a short run.

Regardless of running or not, I can tell a huge difference in putting my legs up against a wall above my heart, and for most people with POTS, it’s definitely a beneficial thing to do!

For more information on POTS, click here. 

I am not a doctor, and this post should not be taken as expert medical advice. I’m simply someone who has lived many years with POTS who has found resources around the internet that help to explain this syndrome. Please contact a doctor if you have questions about POTS or think you might have it


3 responses to “Legs Over Heart”

  1. There have been many of days I am thankful for an office door so I can put my feet up in the air midday 🙂

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m going to have to try that. It makes sense that it would be helpful.