Dangers Of Too Much Sitting: Venous Insufficiency

September 12, 2017
The Vascular Center at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Kurtis Kim, M.D., Director of The Vascular Laboratory at The Vascular Center at Mercy, recently answered questions from The Broadcast regarding whether sitting for prolonged periods can be dangerous to one’s health...

While arteries have a heart that functions as a pump to distribute nutrient-full blood to rest of the body, veins which collect these used blood to return to the heart does not have equivalent pump. The way in which the venous blood returns to the heart in particular from the leg is repeated muscular contraction with aid of one-way valves that are located in many different places within the vein.

Sitting, as well as standing in one place creates a problem where one’s muscles are not being used to push the blood up toward the heart, and this can over time stagnate venous return creating what is called venous insufficiency. Just as our bodies weight is carried by our joints that undergoes wear and tear, our veins, especially the ones in the legs that takes on most gravity, supports the weight of blood during our life time especially when muscles are not active. 

Prolonged inactivity creates degenerative changes in veins that dilates them making these one-way valves incompetent allowing column of blood’s weight to generate pressure in the leg creating swelling, aches, throbbing, burning, and in severe cases ulcers and cellulitis. 

Studies show that jobs that makes one stand in one place most closely correlate with development of venous insufficiency (i.e. factory workers, hair dressers, cashier) and to similar degree ones to have a desk job that requires them to sit for a prolong period of time.

While easier said than done, best way to counter the effect of venous insufficiency is periodic brisk walking (going up and down the stairs, or squatting and standing repeatedly), elevating legs to offset the gravity and wearing compressive garments, and when the symptoms as described worsens to seek vascular specialist for consultation.

-- Kurtis Kim, M.D., FACS, RPVI

Board Certified in Vascular Surgery and is a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI), Mercy’s Dr. Kurtis Kim diagnoses and treats patients with circulatory issues including leg pain and swelling and blood clots in legs and lungs.


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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