Aches and pains are a part of life, whether they come from intense exercise or you just wake up with aching legs. Dull, throbbing aches may target your legs, arms, back, or feet.
Achy legs can happen due to a muscle strain, but there are a number of other reasons why your legs might be achy. We’re going to look at aching leg causes, ways that you can physically help your aching legs, and home remedies for those aching legs. This will be your complete guide to aching legs and how to prevent them.
Common Causes of Achy Legs
Your legs can hurt for multiple reasons. Some of these reasons are recognizable and pretty self-explanatory, while others may surprise you.
1. Physical stress
Aching legs may simply be the result of physical stress. This stress can be caused by exercise or something as simple as walking or standing on your feet all day. Pregnant women, in particular, can get aching legs from standing and walking due to the extra weight that they are carrying.
2. Varicose veins
This problem occurs in your legs when the veins that move the deoxygenated blood from the body to the heart flow the wrong way, causing the veins to swell and the legs to ache.
3. Peripheral arterial disease
Your arteries become narrow due to restricted blood flow. This can lead to aching legs, but if the restrictions of blood flow get worse or are left untreated, it can also lead to tissue damage and even death.
The sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and runs down your leg. When this nerve is inflamed, sciatica occurs, which can cause pain and numbness in the legs.
5. Restless leg syndrome
Some people are unable to keep their legs still for periods of time. This constant movement can cause wear and aches in the legs.
Tendonitis (also tendinitis) happens when your tendons, the tissue that connects your bones to the muscle, is inflamed. This may be due to injury or other causes like arthritis and diabetes.
Beyond the common causes above, leg aches can also be the result of tumors, anemia, and hormonal changes. In many of these cases, there isn’t much you can do other than rest and take care of the legs. But if you find that you have aching legs at night after a long day, there are some stretches that may help you prevent that.
Simple Exercises and Stretches for Achy Legs
There is a solid chance that, at some point, you will get achy legs. The good news is there are some simple stretches that may help you avoid the aches. For a number of these stretches, you will need a chair or bench to put your feet on.
1. Hip Flexors
Stand facing a steady seat or bench about a leg’s length away from you. Place your right foot on the bench. Slowly lunge forward by bending the right leg into a lunge position while keeping your hands on your hips and your chest high. Keep your left leg straight with the heel on the ground. If done correctly, when you lean forward, you will notice a small pull in your left hip flexor (the muscle just below the hips). Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, and then, switch legs.
2. Calf Stretch
Take a chair and stand behind it, holding your hands on the back of it for balance. Raise yourself on your toes and hold the position for a few seconds before lowering your heels back to a regular standing position. Do these stretches several times, but try to avoid overstretching.
3. Hamstring Stretch (backs of thighs)
Seat yourself on the floor and bend one leg, resting the foot of the bent leg on the inside of the opposite outstretched leg. Then, bend yourself at the waist and reach for your toes on the outstretched leg. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
Home Remedies for Achy Legs
Beyond stretching, there are also some home remedies you can use to help soothe heavy aching legs.
1. Magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is an important mineral that can be found in a number of foods such as leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts. The nutrient is important to the function of nerves and muscles and can help with inflammation. Having a banana after a good leg workout may be helpful to keep the aches down.
2. Cold compress
Familiar to athletes for many different types of muscle and joint pain, a cold compress can help out with an achy leg as well. Take a few ice cubes or a frozen bag of peas, and wrap it in a thin towel. Place the ice pack on the area of your leg that seems to be the source of the ache. With the leg elevated, keep the ice pack on for about 15 to 20 mins. Repeat a couple of times a day.
3. Epsom salts
Run a hot bath, and throw in a half-cup of Epsom salts. Soak your legs for at least 15 minutes. The Epsom salts can help lower inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Simple but often effective, massaging the area of the leg that is aching can often work out the aches and pains within the muscle. Try warming oil such as coconut and massage gently but firmly into the aching area.
Achy Legs Will Happen, but Now you are Prepared!
Achy legs will happen to all of us at some point or another. Aging, pregnancy, or exercise make us more susceptible to aches and pains. Luckily, as we’ve listed above, there are a number of simple ways you can prevent the leg aches or treat them, most of which you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Aching Legs? Try these Natural Treatments
Tips to Strengthen and Stretch Your Legs
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Malone, L., “Stretches and Exercises for Tired, Achy Legs,” Next Avenue, April 30, 2014, http://www.nextavenue.org/stretches-and-exercises-tired-achy-legs/, last accessed March 15, 2017.
“Home Remedies for Leg Pain,” Top 10 Home Remedies, http://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-leg-pain.html, last accessed March 15, 2017.