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The Normal Circulation

  • Couple on BikesYour heart is a muscle pump that pushes your blood around the body.
  • Arteries are the pipes that carry blood from the heart to all your organs and tissues.
  • Veins are the pipes through which blood returns from the organs and tissues back to your heart.

For blood to return to the heart from the legs, it needs to travel up the veins against gravity.  This is made possible by:
  • Calf muscle pump: when the muscles of the legs contract, the veins running through these muscles get squeezed so that the blood in these veins is pushed back up the leg.
  • Valves: these sit in the veins and only allow blood to flow towards the heart.  In effect they prevent the blood that has been squeezed up the leg, by the muscle pump, from flowing back down again, under gravity, when the muscles relax.

The Venous System Anatomy

There are two sets of veins in the legs. 
  • Deep veins are large veins which lie deep in the muscles of the leg and cannot be seen.  Nearly all the blood returning from the legs to the heart flows up these deep veins.
  • Superficial Veins: these are normally very small and often invisible veins that lie directly under the skin.  It is these small superficial veins which can form into varicose veins.