Have you been standing on your feet for hours, or walking for a long time? This can easily cause aching legs, and you’ll notice them even more at night. Leg pain can usually be treated with OTC pain killers or massage. However, if your leg pain becomes serious or unbearable, and it is also continuous, this is a red flag. Visit your physician for diagnosis and treatment.
There are various causes for aches in the legs, and they range from common, simple issues to those that can be serious and even life-threatening.
Causes of Leg Aches
- Varicose Veins
These are the veins that move deoxygenated blood back to the heart. If you have problems within these veins, the blood will travel in the opposite direction, causing swelling of the veins. This is most often an issue with women.
- Peripheral Arterial Disease
PAD is commonly found in elderly patients, since arteries narrow as we age, due to deposits of fat. As you age, you have a greater chance at experiencing PAD. If this is not treated, it can cause restrictions in your proper flow of blood which can cause damage to tissues, and even death.
If you suffer from this medical problem, you have an overactive thyroid gland. This can cause a lot of pain. Any system or gland that is compromised may cause aching legs, since most all body systems work with the lower body, and your legs support the whole body.
Tendons connect your bones to their muscles. If they become inflamed, from diabetes, injury or arthritis, this can lead to severe pain in your muscles and joints.
- Restless Leg Syndrome
For some people, it’s difficult keeping their legs still, especially when they are trying to get to sleep at night. Constant use of your legs can cause sore legs. Young adults and children are most likely to be affected by RLS.
Your sciatic nerve runs from your lower back and down through the entirety of both legs. If your sciatic nerve is inflamed, it is known as sciatica. This causes severe pain in the legs. You may also experience tingling or numbing in your legs.
If there is a tumor growing in a lower limb, this can cause a great deal of pain. Speak with your physician if you have a growth in a leg, or are experiencing severe pain.
A deficiency in iron can cause sore legs. If your blood flow is insufficient, you will have general discomfort and pain, but it will likely be strongest in your legs.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein of the body. It usually appears in the legs. It can cause severe swelling and pain, but it may also occur with no symptoms. Some medical conditions are likely to lead to DVT. In addition, you may experience DVT if you don’t move for long periods of time, like on plane trips or while resting in bed after surgery.
DVT is very serious. The blood clots that form in your leg veins may break loose and travel through the bloodstream to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), and this can be fatal.
- Lack of Exercise
Your body requires exercise in order to stay healthy. If your joints and muscles are not used enough, they may become weak and stiff. Be sure that you exercise enough to keep your joints and muscles strong and active.
In addition, excessive exercising or exercise you do without proper stretches first may cause your muscles to ache. You may not feel this pain until a day or so later, when your muscles have relaxed.
- Other Diseases
When something compromises your health, muscle fatigue and weakness may occur. Many diseases can lead to aching legs, like diabetes, which can damage the nerves of the legs if it isn’t properly treated. Disorders in blood circulation may also cause your legs to ache. Chronic diseases like arthritis and even cancer may cause soreness and pain in your muscles and joints.
- Physical Stress
If you’re on your feet for excessive periods of time, it can cause the muscles in your legs to become strained. In addition, pregnant women often experience pain in their legs from carrying more weight than the legs are accustomed to supporting.
- Previous Injuries
When you have a previous injury to a bone or joint in the leg, it may not heal fully. This can cause occasional pain. As you age, your body needs longer to heal after an injury, and you may experience chronic pain following injury.
- Hormonal Changes
During their menstrual cycle, some women experience an imbalance in their hormones, which may lead to weakness. Leg pain during menstruation is not uncommon, as well as during pregnancy, when hormone levels are in flux.
- Poorly Balanced Diet
If you don’t eat healthy foods, your joints and muscles don’t receive the nutrients they need. A deficiency in calcium, potassium and iron can weaken muscles and bones, causing leg pain.
- Other Causes of Aching Legs
- Leg cramps may cause your legs to ache for a day or two.
- Insufficient water intake can cause weakness and a lower metabolic rate.
- Some medications have side effects that include pain in the legs. Some drugs like corticosteroids can cause pain in the legs.
- Sitting or standing with poor posture may lead to strain on your legs and lower back, causing pain.
Taking Care of Aching Legs at Home
Let’s face it – we’re on our feet a lot. Sometimes your legs need rest. If you have leg pain from over-exerting yourself, try some of these DIY remedies.
- Relax and let your legs rest.
- Put your feet up.
- Stretch out your leg muscles.
- Apply ice or heat to any area that hurts.
- Use OTC pain medications to help aches and pains.
- If you have varicose veins, elevate those legs and wear leggings to ease your pain.
- If you have nerve disorders, keep your diabetes in check. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol and support your feet and legs with comfortable, supportive shoes.
When should you See a Doctor?
Get help immediately:
- If you cannot put any weight on your leg
- If a cut on your leg is so deep that it exposes your bone or tendon
- If you experience an injury and hear a “pop” when it occurs
- If you have severe swelling or pain – it could be DVT
See your doctor immediately:
- If your leg is swollen and feels cool when you touch it
- If you have redness on the leg and you also are running a fever
- If you have breathing problems and swelling in both your legs
- If you have calf pain after you sit for a long time, like after a long plane flight
Make an appointment to see your physician:
- If your legs are swelling to a low or moderate level
- If your legs hurt when you walk
- If you have very painful varicose veins
- If you have pain that doesn’t get any better