It’s a strange feeling. Your legs are heavy as lead, and you feel you can’t make it up a short flight of stairs or even take one more step.
“A number of factors can contribute to heavy legs,” says Dr. Moe Zafarani, a cardiologist at Aurora Health Care. “The most common include muscle fatigue, restless leg syndrome, and vascular or circulation issues.”
Here’s a breakdown of these conditions and what you can do about them.
It’s not a surprise that intense physical exercise such as running or bicycling can cause your legs to feel heavy, particularly if you don’t give enough time for your muscles to recover. Even standing for long periods can overwork your muscles and cause your legs to become tired and heavy. Stretching, proper hydration and massaging the legs can help improve soreness and ease the heaviness.
Restless leg syndrome
This condition is often described as an uncontrollable jittery, shaky or numb feeling in the legs. It may cause them to feel heavy. Usually, simply moving them provides relief.
Certain vascular conditions can be the underlying cause of tired, heavy legs, including:
- Varicose veins: These form when gravity causes blood to pool in your legs. Your vein walls weaken and stretch, and blood backs up and causes the vein to bulge, twist, and look like swollen, blue or purple ropes. While usually more of a cosmetic concern, varicose veins sometimes can be painful and lead to more significant health problems.
- Peripheral artery disease: This happens when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, organs and limbs, making it hard for blood to travel to these parts, particularly your legs. Without proper care, leg tissue can begin to die, and it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
- Chronic venous insufficiency: This occurs when your leg veins can’t bring blood back to your heart effectively. Blood pools in the veins in your legs instead of flowing up to your heart. Left untreated, it can cause pain, poor wound healing, ulcers and in severe cases, amputation.
Circulatory conditions can be serious, and Dr. Zafarani shares other symptoms to watch for in your legs, ankles or feet:
- Swelling or redness
- Itchy, burning or throbbing sensation
- Coldness, cramping or tingling
- Bluish skin color
- Wounds that won’t heal
- New or worsening varicose veins
“An occasional feeling your legs are heavy is usually nothing to be concerned about,” Dr. Zafarani says. “But if it doesn’t go away or you have any of these other symptoms, it’s best to talk with your doctor to find the underlying cause and get the right treatment.”
Want to learn more about your risk for stroke? Take a free online quiz here.
This article originally appeared on health enews.