Legs Feel Heavy? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Ever have those days where your legs feel heavy, and you feel like a zombie shuffling around using every bit of strength you’ve got to get from A to B? Sometimes, though, there is a logical reason why your legs feel heavy. Perhaps you had a grueling workout the day before, or you walked more than you usually do, for example. 

However, there may be times when you cannot explain why your legs feel heavy, and it could be related to one of many things.

In this article, I will take a deep dive into the possible causes, symptoms, and how you can treat heavy legs.

What Causes Heaviness in Legs?

Legs that feel heavy can be related to many things; however, if you are sure the cause is not after some form of exercise, it is usually connected to poor circulation, otherwise referred to as venous insufficiency.

If one’s circulation is on the weaker side of the spectrum, the body is at war against gravity to force the blood back up to the heart from the legs, as this is predominately where circulation issues arise.

However, what tends to happen is that blood stores in the legs, feet, and possibly ankles due to poor circulation, causing the feeling of heaviness.

As time goes by, your veins can incur damage or even break, hence why you experience heavy legs as the blood is not circulating back up to the heart as it ought to.

Symptoms of Heavy Legs

Some common symptoms of why legs feel heavy can be:

Stiff

Your legs do not feel as free and loose as they usually do. They feel stiff and robust, making mobility an issue.

Achy

Sometimes your legs have a constant ache, which can vary in how severe it is. Some people report having a continuous mild discomfort, while others say they have had intense bursts of pain.

Cramp

Like the achy feeling, you may sometimes feel cramps in your legs. Often this is intense in pain.

Tired

You find it difficult to get moving. Your legs feel fatigued and have no get up and go in them.

Symptoms are not the only telling factor for heavy legs. Heavy legs may be:

  • Bluish or pale
  • Swollen
  • Bumpy

Common Reasons for Vein Issues

Low Physical Activity Levels

Nowadays, many people’s jobs involve spending long periods being sedentary, then they come home and spend the evening sitting on the sofa.

Living this lifestyle means blood is not circulating as efficiently as possible, leading to vascular issues over time.

Age

According to an article written by the University of Rochester Medical Center, over 40 million adults in the U.S. alone have varicose veins.

The reality is the risk of developing them increases with age, as the older we become, the greater the wear and tear the valves in the veins experience, which can cause issues with blood flow.

Genetics

Regrettably, there are no escaping factors associated with genetics, and vein issues may be one of them.

Whether you inherit issues over time or have vein abnormalities at birth, you are more likely to develop varicose veins, for example.

However, following a healthy lifestyle such as a clean diet and regular exercise could prolong any vascular issue.

Obesity

The valves that ensure a continuous blood flow to your heart are delicate.

In the case of one being overweight, the additional body fat that one carries adds pressure to the walls of the veins, thus causing damage to the valve.

A healthy lifestyle is imperative to avoid excess body fat being the culprit to the cause of any vascular issues.

Important note: Keeping mobile is essential to reduce developing vein issues. Therefore, daily stretching, movement throughout the day like walking, and regular exercise are required. 

Possible Causes for Heavy Legs

Restless Legs Syndrome

While the cause is unknown, restless leg syndrome is often overlooked.

It shares the same characteristics as other conditions, such as aching and throbbing of the legs, which predominately occur during rest.

Interestingly, a study shows that fibromyalgia and restless leg are interlinked and that those with fibromyalgia are up to ten times more likely to suffer from restless legs.

However, although remaining mobile and active brings relief, research suggests that genetics may play a part in the cause.

Research also suggests that drinking alcohol, smoking, pregnancy, and having existing nerve damage, are all factors that sit in the higher risk bracket of developing restless leg syndrome.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (Pad)

PAD is caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries (otherwise known as atherosclerosis), which narrows or blocks the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs.

The side effects of the vessels not carrying enough blood to the legs are cramps and aches; however, up to 4 in 10 people experience no leg pain.

The risk factors for PAD are high cholesterol, people over 60 years old, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

According to the CDC, approximately 6.5 million people aged 40 and older in the U.S. have PAD.

Varicose Veins

Genetically, more women have this issue than men, and astonishingly, around 23 percent of adults in the U.S. have varicose veins.

These veins are usually visibly knotty and bumpy and are prone to appear in people who are obese, have a family history of them, and those who sit or stand for prolonged periods.

Varicose veins also appear during hormonal events such as menopause and pregnancy.

Overtraining Syndrome

Sufficient rest between workouts is essential to ensure the body recovers and the muscles have time to repair themselves from their stress.

However, exceptionally physically active people who have an intense exercise regime – such as athletes – push themselves to the limit and may experience their legs feeling heavier.

Athletes can be under immense pressure to perform and are always striving to be better than they were; therefore, with such vigorous training schedules, it is a common explanation for why their legs feel heavy.

How Do I Fix My Heavy Legs?

You can do a few things to reduce or even relieve your pain.

Stop smoking

Smoking may increase the risk of heavy legs as it impacts the circulatory system negatively. Therefore, cutting down on the amount you smoke, or stopping it altogether, may reduce or eradicate the symptoms.

Elevate your legs

Raising your legs above your heart means the legs don’t have to work as hard as they otherwise would to pump the pooled blood out of them.

Exercise frequently, but don’t overdo it

When I say exercise, this also includes generally being active, like walking, for example.

Brisk walking and moderate-intensity cycling help keep the blood pumping through the body and are a great way to control weight.

However, remain conscious of how much exercise you perform each week and its intensity.

More does not always equal more when it comes to exercise frequency.

The body needs to have adequate rest and recovery; therefore, rest days are essential.

Wear compression socks

Compression stockings may help blood flow in the legs.

Lose weight

Carrying excess weight can make your legs feel heavy; however, losing it may reduce the symptoms or rid you of them completely.

Have baths, just not too hot

The veins increase in width the hotter you are, which can cause challenges for blood to flow through the legs; therefore, avoid hot baths as this can cause make people feel extremely uncomfortable and unwell.

Summary

Heavy legs can be related to many things; however, they may be connected to something more serious; therefore, I would advise you to get medically reviewed by a professional.

The good news is, if your legs feel heavy and it is connected to something treatable, there is no reason why you cannot reduce the pain to make it more manageable, allowing you to have a better quality of life.

About the author

Chris Jones

I'm Chris. I have a vast interest in all things relating to health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition. I also love to improve my mindset and learn how to increase my productivity. If you'd like to say hello or ask me a question, please visit my contact page, and I'd be glad to hear from you. Alternatively, you can find me on Twitter (@liveliftlife).

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