Feeling heavy legs after a workout is normal and expected. Legs that feel weighed down, stiff, and tired for no apparent reason, however, may be a sign of a condition affecting the veins.
Determining the cause will help in finding proper treatment. There may also be some useful home remedies to find relief from the symptoms.
Causes can vary in severity, and doctors will want to make a full diagnosis to be sure they are treating the symptoms correctly. In this article, we take a look at a range of these possible causes, along with treatment options for them.
Causes of heavy legs
Heavy legs can be a sign of a number of conditions or disorders in the body.
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When legs feel weighed down or aching, it may be due to an underlying condition, such as varicose veins.
Varicose veins are veins that look more apparent, larger, and knotty than surrounding veins.
As blood circulation gets worse, blood starts to pool in the legs due to factors such as the effects of gravity and the veins losing their elasticity.
Varicose veins can appear for a number of reasons, including:
hormonal imbalances, such as those during perimenopause and pregnancy
people whose occupations require them to stand or sit
lack of physical activity in general
Varicose veins may lead to issues such as blood clots, which in turn cause swelling and pain. They may also influence skin sores, which could be difficult to heal.
Feeling a bit of tiredness in the legs for a few days after a particularly intense workout is normal. However, when athletes train themselves to push past their limits on a regular basis, they risk overtraining their muscles.
Overtrained muscles do not have time to repair themselves before people use them again. The result is often sluggish, weak, or heavy muscles. Athletes, such as cyclists and runners, may complain of heavy legs if they have been pushing themselves too hard.
Nervousness and restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome often causes an uncontrollable feeling in the legs that is jittery, shaky, or numb.
The temporary remedy is often as simple as moving them. Until the legs move, they may have a heavy feeling to them.
Many people will shake their legs or tap their feet to try and relieve the symptoms, which is where the syndrome gets its name.
Chronic venous insufficiency
Heavy legs may also be a sign of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).
The pressure of gravity makes the heart work harder to pump blood back up to the heart from the feet and legs. The feet and legs have a series of one-way valves designed to keep blood from falling back down.
The veins and valves in a person with CVI become weak, which can often cause complaints such as tired, heavy legs, swelling, and spider veins.
CVI may be more common in people who stand for long periods of time, as standing can put tremendous strain on the veins in the lower legs and feet.
A few risk factors play into CVI, including:
lack of exercise
Peripheral arterial disease
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a type of cardiovascular disease that can affect the veins and arteries. Symptoms start to appear when fat builds up in the walls of the arteries, which makes it difficult for blood to pass through.
PAD is common in the legs, where it can partially cut off circulation to the feet and legs and cause them to ache, feel heavy, or have cramps.
Risk factors for PAD include things like high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes.
Heavy legs and obesity
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Being overweight or obese may place extra strain on the legs, causing them to feel heavy or to ache.
Being overweight or obese may influence a number of other disorders that cause heavy legs, but the heavy legs may also be an issue directly linked to the extra weight.
Carrying extra weight can put more pressure on the joints, muscles, and tendons in the leg, especially if the person stands for long periods throughout the day.
An overweight person with a sedentary lifestyle may also have circulation problems that could worsen feelings of heaviness in the legs.
Obesity is a risk factor for some of the other disorders that cause heavy legs. Losing weight may help reduce symptoms or improve the general health.
Heavy legs during pregnancy
Heavy legs are commonly experienced during pregnancy. This may be due to a combination of the extra weight the legs have to carry around and the hormonal changes a woman goes through while pregnant. Changing hormone levels may increase water retention while also reducing elasticity in the veins.
Home remedies may help relieve symptoms. For the most part, these symptoms will fade after pregnancy.
People who should pay close attention to heavy legs include pregnant women who:
lead a sedentary lifestyle
have a family history of venous issues
work strenuously while pregnant
In addition to the feeling of having heavy legs, people may notice other symptoms in their legs. These symptoms are important to report to a doctor, as they may help with diagnosis and treatment.
Common symptoms may include:
dullness or numbness in the leg
throbbing pain in one or both legs
feeling coldness or tingling in the legs
difficulty walking or standing as the day goes on
discoloration in the area, such as the leg turning pale or blue