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Does Crossing Your Legs Cause Varicose Veins?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ladies were often told that polite sitting involves crossing the legs, or more often the ankles. Whether or not this truly constitutes polite sitting, there’s no need to worry about varicose veins if you plan on crossing your legs. This is an urban legend, an old wives tale that has been routinely circulated and repeated on the Internet, one which medical professionals dismiss as hogwash. Crossing your legs will not and does not lead to varicose veins or to spider veins.

The theory that crossing your legs leads to these prominent and damaged veins stems from the idea that crossing the legs can cause compression to the legs, which can create back-up blood flow to the heart. Veins carry blood returning to the heart, and if you were to create enough pressure to slow down this blood flow, veins could pool with blood, enlarging and becoming damaged. Yet any compression caused by crossing your legs is not enough to apply the type of pressure needed to truly stop the regular flow of venous blood; you’re not applying a tourniquet to your legs when you cross them.

Similarly, people may be told that wearing compression stockings will cause varicose veins, but this is in fact standard treatment to reduce pain and swelling associated with swollen and damaged veins. If your knee-highs are a bit too tight, for comfort’s sake you might want a slightly looser pair. Yet, you don’t need to worry about varicose veins resulting from tight socks, any more than you need worry about how crossing your legs will affect your veins.

This begs the question then, of what causes varicose veins and what steps you can take to try to prevent them. First, it isn’t always possible to prevent varicose veins, but again, crossing your legs will neither cause nor avoid them. The most common factors for developing varicose veins include heredity — you may just be genetically predisposed toward developing these.

Other factors that may increase risk for varicose veins include gender. Varicose veins occur more often in women. Being overweight, having poor circulation to the legs, which can be present in people with diabetes or with heart conditions, and actually having to do a lot of standing may create more varicose veins. Pregnancy can often cause varicose veins to develop and hormone treatments as when women are trying to get pregnant or are using hormone replacement therapy may put people at more risk. Typically birth control pills are not associated with greater risk for developing these painful and swollen veins.

Good news exists, too, in the fact that varicose veins can now be treated through a variety of methods. Ask your doctor about which method might be right for you. Some methods fall under the classification of optional procedures and may not be covered by health insurance. When varicose veins are extremely painful and inhibit activity, people may be able to successfully argue that a procedure to remove the veins is warranted and should be covered by insurance.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon32495 — On May 22, 2009

Thanks for clearing that up for me. My band teacher told the girls in the class that if we crossed our legs we'd get varicose veins. But I had a feeling she was lying, so I did a little digging. Thank you so much, now I can tell my friends not to worry!!!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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