How to Prevent Feet Swelling When Sitting in an Office Chair?

Working long hours can be tiring. While sitting at a desk for long office hours, you must be familiar with the feet and body ache and chair-induced swollen feet.

So, what can be done to relieve swollen feet? How can we prevent it?

To prevent chair-induced swollen feet while sitting at a desk, you need to sit in a correct posture, take breaks, use foot support equipment like a footstool and elevate your foot quite often.

Sitting on a chair for long hours (Source: Unsplash)

I used to work in an office for eight long hours daily, which mainly included desk work. Many of my co-workers had an issue with swollen feet due to the prolonged seating hours.

The issue quickly dropped when our office started installing under desk foot pedals for every employee. So, I wanted to explore more ways to prevent and treat swollen feet.

If you suffer from swollen feet from time to time, you have come to the right place. Read on to find what you can do yourself to help improve your condition.

Can Sitting in an Office Chair for Too Long Cause Feet Swelling?

One of the common causes of foot edema among office workers and students is chair-induced swollen feet caused by sitting for prolonged hours.

The muscle inactivity and fluid build-up cause the lower limbs to swell.

Sitting for more than two hours with your legs unsupported is enough to cause swelling in your lower limbs.

Even with leg support and correct posture, sitting continuously for more than six hours can cause swelling.

The research was done by measuring the limb volumes of passengers after a ten-hour-long flight.

The results showed that the fluid accumulation increased in the leg after four hours of sitting and reached a maximum after ten hours.

Swelling in legs
A swollen foot and ankle and a normal foot (Source: iStock)

Similarly, a survey was carried out among office workers regarding food swelling. About 4.8% of the seven female office workers surveyed reported feet swelling while working for 8 hours with no foot activity.

What Causes Feet to Swell When Sitting in an Office Chair?

Your legs accumulate fluid and swell up when sitting for long hours with no leg movement.

Swelling of limbs due to long periods of sitting is called dependent edema. The leg swell is not painful.

However, it can be uncomfortable and cause more issues in the future, like varicose veins. The fluid is pulled down to the legs by gravity which causes significant swelling.

Sitting for long hours can also cause blood clots in your veins, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

chair swollen feet
Leg Edema (Source: Wikipedia)

The clot formed can move into circulation to the heart and cause severe conditions like pulmonary embolus (PE).

A twenty-year-old British man died due to deep vein thrombosis after playing video games for  12 hours a day.

How to Treat Chair-Induced Swollen Feet?

If your feet are due to continuous time spent sitting, here are some ways you can reduce the swelling.

1. Exercises for Swelling Reduction

The foot movement is limited while we remain seated in our chairs.

Simple exercises can help move the muscles and lower the swelling by moving the build-up fluids back to the body’s center.

Here are some recommended exercises by a board-certified podiatric surgeon, Dr. Joel S. Segalman.

  • Leg Extensions: First, rest your feets flat on the ground. Stretch your right or left foot and raise it slightly, hold the posture for a while and repeat on each leg. Repeat the steps 20 to 30 times.
  • Knee Lifts: Lift one of your legs and bend it towards the chest. Repeat with another leg. Repeat the steps 20-30 times.
  • Ankle Circles: Lift one of your feet and roll the ankle clockwise. Complete ten circles in one order and repeat with another foot. Repeat the steps five to ten times.
  • Foot Pumps: Lift your toes and heels of the legs turn by turn, and return to a balanced state. Repeat the steps.

The disrupted sitting method also helps reduce the swelling in the legs.

Research carried out to measure the effectiveness of disrupted sitting showed that exercising for three minutes at the interval of every house significantly subsided the leg swelling.

Meanwhile, sitting with no leg movement for four hours led to increased swelling. You can also take a brisk walk every other hour to help with circulation.

Here is a video tutorial for other simple exercises to reduce foot swelling.

Read about; Is Sitting Indian Style in the Office Chair Bad for You ?

2. Keep Your Feet Elevated

The movement of fluid over the body is affected by gravity. Thus, when you keep your feet on the ground, the fluids are accumulated on them.

However, if you raise them over your heart level, the gravity causes the fluids to move back to your heart. Consequently, decreasing the swelling.

You can use a  pillow or a cushion to keep your legs elevated as you lay down.

According to research done by the American Academy of Family Physicians, keeping the feet above the heart level can reduce foot swelling significantly.

Keeping your feet elevated for up to 20 to 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce the swelling. You can also repeat it every three to four hours, depending on your needs.

3. Adjust your Diet

Diet plays a vital role in your overall health. It can also affect the swelling of your feet.

If your feet are swollen from sitting long hours, you can follow a low salt and magnesium-rich diet.

The Standard recommended salt intake is 10 grams for men and eight for women.

According to the research, too much salt intake can increase fluid retention and cause swelling.

Some familiar sources of Magnesium are Nuts, Seeds, Legumes, and fiber-rich grains.

4. Massage your Feet

You can also treat chair-induced swollen feet by massaging your feet between long work hours.

Messaging can relax the muscles in your legs and reduce swelling. Here are some of the simple messages you can do.

Foot massage (Source: Pxfeul)

Squeeze and Knead

  • Wrap your fingers around your ankles.
  • Squeeze your ankles with your fingers and move your way up to the limbs.
  • Repeat with another leg.

Chop Motion

  • Make a fist or extend your palm and gently massage your legs.
  • Work your way up to the thighs.

Watch this video to learn how to massage your foot to reduce swelling.

5. Sleep on your Left

The side you sleep on determines the pressure on your veins while you sleep.

So, it would be best if you slept on your left side to help reduce the swelling. This position reduces the pressure on your veins and pumps blood back to your heart.

 6. Soak your Foot in Warm Water

You can soothe your swollen feet by soaking them in warm water for 15-20 minutes.

The warm water will loosen up your lymph nodes allowing the build-up fluid to circulate. You can also add Epsom salt to the footbath.

Hydrotherapy is also used to treat foot edema. Hydrotherapy includes activities like running underwater, Aquatic massage, and Aquatic exercise.

It reduces the swelling by compressing the effects of water on your feet, improving circulation.

chair swollen feet
Soaking foot in water(Source: Unsplash)

7. Wear Compression Socks

Compression socks work by preventing fluid build-up in your legs. It promotes circulation from the legs to your heart.

In detail, it reduces the overall area of your feet, which increases the velocity of blood, leading to increased circulation.

If you are new to wearing compression socks, start with those that are 12 to 15 mm Hg.

According to the research, graduated compression stockings with at least 35 mm Hg have proven effective in reducing leg edema.

You can buy medically approved compression stockings from Amazon.

8. Visit a Doctor and Take Medications

If you have pain along with the swelling and the swelling persists for more than a week, you need to visit a doctor and get it checked.

Swelling of the legs can also indicate other diseases like underlying heart problems.

The doctors will recommend you suitable medications and therapy to reduce the swelling.

How to Prevent Feet Swelling While Sitting at Desk?

Improved circulation and movement can help you prevent feet swelling. Here are some ways to prevent your feet from swelling even if you work for long hours in your chair.

1. Sit with your Feet Flat on the Ground

You must sit in a correct posture to prevent your legs from swelling.

Make sure your seat height is adjusted according to your size, so your feet lay flat on the ground.

You can also use a footrest if your feet are dangling. But, note that sitting for long hours, even in a correct posture, can cause your feet to swell, so you need to take breaks and stand up or move your leg.

Read about; What should be the Ideal Height of your Office Chair?

2. Use Equipment to Support your Feet

Not all office chairs or work setups will suit your height or physical requirement. This can lead to uncomfortable postures like crossing your legs.

So, you can use equipment to help support your feet in a correct posture.

Footrests range from one to six inches to suit your height. Measure the distance between the floor and where your feet dangle and get a footrest of that height.

You can use a footrest to rest your feet in a neutral position which helps prevent swelling. It also prevents postural fixivity by encouraging foot movement.

chair swollen feet
Kensington 56144 Solemate Plus Adjustable Footrest With Foam Pad (Source: Amazon)

3. Avoid Sitting for Long Periods

You might be fixated on your work and forget to move your legs around. This can cause fluid build-up in your feet.

You need to change your position every hour. Stand up and move around before you start working again.

According to the research conducted among office workers, two hours of continuous sitting was enough to increase calf volume due to swelling significantly.

4. Avoid Uncomfortable Feet Postures

Some postures like crossing your legs might feel comfortable for a while. However, it can lead to pain and swelling.

Here are some uncomfortable foot postures that cause chair-induced swollen feet.

Crossing your Legs: While crossing your feet, the feet that are under the other is under tremendous pressure.

Dangling Feet: Leaving your feet dangling in the air is bad for circulation and causes more swelling.

Sitting on your Legs: This position puts the entire weight of your body upon your feet, so the circulation on your foot is affected.

According to the research, sitting with legs crossed can affect circulation by increasing pressure on the veins in the leg.

Sitting with crossed legs (Source: pixnio)

5. Use Foot Pedals

You can place foot pedals under your desk and pedal while working to keep your foot muscles active.

Cycling is beneficial for blood circulation, and the foot pedals will mimic the action.

Alternatively, you can use REVITIVE Medic Circulation Booster, which uses electric pulses to improve circulation in your legs.

6. Wear Comfortable Attire

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes while you work at your desk.

Tight clothes can cause lousy circulation and fluids to get stuck on your legs.

An article published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry highlights a case of a 35-year-old woman who was hospitalized after wearing tight jeans to sit and squat for long hours, causing swelling in her legs.

7. Stay Hydrated

You need to drink at least 8 to 12 glasses of water a day for hydration to prevent chair-induced swollen feet.

Build up of sodium in your body can cause fluid build-up. Increased hydration can eliminate excess sodium.

Keep a bottle of water near you while working to ensure you stay hydrated.

Best Office Chairs to Prevent Feet Swelling in 2022

Here are some of the best office chairs to prevent foot swelling.

Best Chair to prevent SwellingFeaturesProduct Image
NOUHAUS Ergo3D Ergonomic Office Chair3D Adjustable, Armrest and Lumbar System

Seat lifts up and down for excellent leg support.
Homall Gaming Chair Office ChairHeight adjustment and tilt locking mechanisms.

Ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and support.

Ticova Ergonomic Office ChairAdjust back and lumbar support height.

Waterfall edge design and 3 inches of high-density foam, which provides a larger surface area and disperses pressure on the hips and thighs.

SIHOO Ergonomic Office ChairWaterfall front of the seat

W-shaped seat

Seat with good padding
OSP Home Furnishings Mesh and Bonded Leather Adjustable Office ChairBest leather office chair for swollen feet
customize your mobility standards.

Waterfall seat design

The Bottom Line

It is impossible to avoid desk work as most professions include using computers for long hours.

However, you can exercise, massage your feet and use equipment to prevent and treat chair-induced swollen feet.

Something as simple as moving your legs timely can help you avoid the discomfort of swollen legs.

However, you should undoubtedly get medical help if you experience bruising or pain in the swollen leg.

Read more: Should your Feet Hang Over the Recliner?

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