The Peripheral Pump
30 Jul 2003
Everyone knows that the heart is the body’s “Central Pump” moving blood through the arterial system to the organs, muscles included, ensuring the supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Parallel to the heart, a not less important “Peripheral Pump” takes care of the blood’s return to the heart through the veins, especially from lower limbs.
Certain authoritative scientific papers even suggest that it is up to the ‘peripheral pump’ to guide or regulate the heart: saying in substance that the heart can pump into the peripheral circuit (all of our body) blood volumes that come from the periphery to the heart.
Due to the force of gravity, in a human body at rest, standing erect, a hydrostatic vein blood pressure of about 90-100mmHg opposes blood return to the heart.
If we begin to walk or to pedal, the leg muscles surrounding deep veins contract and act like a pump (the Peripheral Pump), pushing blood upwards toward the heart and reducing vein blood pressure resistance to about 40-30 mmHg.
This pumping action is flanked by a system of valves within the veins that keep the blood from flowing back down between muscle contractions.
In cycling, the efficiency of this peripheral pump is enhanced by high pedaling cadences (International Journal of Sports Medicine 1996;17 : 17-21).
In certain individuals, this system functions imperfectly. With increased age, for example, valve efficiency is reduced, and the Peripheral Pump doesn’t work as well as it should. As a result, the performance of the “Central Pump” is also diminished.
In such cases it can be helpful to use graduated compression medical support socks which, applying the correct pressure from the exterior, can facilitate the functioning of Peripheral Pump.