If you have been walking for a great deal of time, or standing on your feet all day, chances are you might have to deal with aching legs by the time you get home! In some cases, leg pain can be treated with a massage or even a few painkillers. But when the pain becomes unbearable, there is cause for concern.
Causes of Aching Legs
Leg pain refers to pain or discomfort anywhere in the leg. The pain can range from a mild, dull ache to a painful stabbing sensation. The causes for leg pain will vary, depending on the individuals, what they do for a living, and how active they are on a daily basis. The following are the main causes for leg pain:
1. Deep vein thrombosis: This is a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein that’s located deep in the body. They typically form in the thigh or lower leg, although they are not limited to those two parts.
2. Pulmonary embolism: A blood clot that affects blood flow to the lungs can severely damage parts of the lung.
3. Arterial embolism: When a blood clot is stuck in the arteries, it causes tissue damage or death to the cells in the affected area.
4. Compartment syndrome: This occurs when there are large amounts of pressure inside a muscle compartment.
5. Necrotizing vasculitis: This is the inflammation of blood vessel walls. It has the ability to interrupt blood flow, which causes skin, muscle, and blood vessel damage. It can also cause the death of tissues and organs in the affected area.
6. Sports injuries: This is the most common cause for leg pain for those who are physically active. Strained muscles, torn ligaments, and torn tissue muscles are all common injuries for athletes.
7. Standing with flat feet: Someone who is “flat-footed” has low foot arches—strain can be caused to the ligaments, making it painful when walking. This is common for infants and tends to disappear by the age of three.
8. Shin splints: This is a pain that is felt along the inner edge of the shinbone on the lower leg, between the knee and ankle. People who do heavy lifting are more prone to this injury.
9. Spinal stenosis: This is a condition where the spinal column becomes narrow and gradually compresses the spinal cord. Minimal narrowing won’t cause any symptoms, but too much narrowing will compress the nerves and cause issues.
10. Osgood-Schlatter disease: This is a common cause of knee pain, especially with adolescents between the ages of 10 and15.
11. Buerger’s disease: This disease causes blockage in the blood vessels of the feet and hands, resulting in tissue damage and tissue death.
12. Polio: This highly contagious disease is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system—it can lead to severe muscle weakness in the arms and legs. Children under five years old are more prone to contracting polio.
13. Sprains and strains: Strains tend to occur from physical activity.
14. Cervical dysplasia: This occurs when healthy cells in the cervix go through abnormal changes.
15. Venous insufficiency: The veins have trouble sending blood from the limbs back to the heart. As a result, it causes the blood to just pool into the legs.
16. Lack of exercise: If you have not allowed your body to become accustomed to physical activity and you refrain from stretching, your muscles will become weak, which could eventually lead to injuries.
17. Imbalanced diet: If you don’t eat healthy, your body won’t get the necessary nutrients it requires to keep your bones and muscles strong.
18. Previous injuries: If you have injured a bone or a muscle in your leg area in the past, it may not have healed properly and can eventually lead to aches and pain.
19. Medications: Some medications list leg pain as a side effect.
20. Hormonal changes: Women may experience hormonal imbalances during their menstrual cycles, which can make their muscles weak. Leg pain for women during menstruation, pregnancy, and child birth is very common.
Natural Treatments for Aching Legs
- Give your legs a break: Your legs are the strongest muscles in your body and are built to take excessive work—but they occasionally need rest. If you don’t give them adequate rest, you run the risk of severely injuring them.
- Put your feet up: Give your feet a rest from time to time. This is essential, especially if you are wearing uncomfortable dress shoes or high heels.
- Apply heat or ice to the affected area: To reduce leg inflammation and swelling, apply a pack of ice to the affected area. Afterwards, apply heat to relax the muscles.
- Stretch out your legs and muscles: In some cases, stretching out your muscles could relieve tightness and reduce pain.
When to See a Doctor
Book an appointment to see your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Your leg is injured and you develop a deep cut that is exposing a tendon or bone.
- You cannot walk or put any weight on the injured leg.
- There is severe swelling or pain in your legs.
- You hear or feel a “popping” sound when an injury occurs.
- You develop a fever.
- Your legs feel cool when touched.
- You have breathing problems.
- You feel pain while walking.
- Your pain doesn’t improve.
- You develop severely painful varicose veins.
- Tips to Strengthen and Stretch Your Legs
- Should I Be Worried about My Knee Clicking?
- Knee Pain at Night: Causes and Natural Treatments
“Aching Legs,” Med-Health.net; http://www.med-health.net/Aching-Legs.html, last accessed August 12, 2015.
Krucik, G., “What causes leg pain? 25 possible conditions,” Healthline web site, http://www.healthline.com/symptom/leg-pain, last accessed August 12, 2015.