Why do my legs feel heavy and tired?

Overview 

Feeling heavy and tired legs after walking a lot or after a workout is expected and is normal, but if your legs are feeling heavy, stiffed, tired, hard to lift, or drag for no apparent reason. It could be a sign of something serious or could be an issue correlated to your veins.

The feeling of heaviness and tired legs can be due to a variety of conditions. 

So, firstly we need to identify the common signs & symptoms, and then secondly, we need to find the underlying causes.

Common signs & symptoms 

People describe their heavy and tired legs along with the following symptoms:

  • Cramping
  • Aching
  • Burning sensation
  • Stiffed 
  • Swollen ‘
  • Hard to lift
  • Tired
  • Dullness
  • Numbness
  • Throbbing or stabbing pain
  • Tingling in the legs 
  • Burning or cold sensations in the legs
  • May appear bumpy & Discoloration
  • Sores (slower to heal)
  • Discomfort in the legs 
  • Fatigue in the legs(while walking or climbing stairs)
  • Difficulty in walking or standing 

Possible causes 

A wide range of conditions can cause heavy and tired legs. Here is the list of some of the possible and leading causes.

  • Varicose veins

Varicose veins are one of the most apparent reasons for heavy and tired legs. It mostly affects the legs and feet. When veins don’t work appropriately, it blocks the blood flow and enlarges the veins and swells.

Signs and symptoms 

  • Throbbing pain
  • Itchiness
  • Heaviness & tiredness in legs
  • Worsened pain after standing or sitting for too long
  • Muscle cramping
  • Swelling
  • Aching and cramping 
  • Veins appear blue, red, or purple

 Risk factors

  • Family history
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Aging 
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Usually, the heavy and tired leg is the early sign of Peripheral Arterial Disease. PAD refers to the condition when the blood carrying arteries become narrowed, and it reduces the blood flow towards the limbs.

One of the most common causes of Peripheral Arterial Disease is Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease which builds a fatty material inside the arteries.

Signs and symptoms 

  • Leg weakness
  • Heaviness 
  • Tiredness
  • The leg may feel cold 
  • Numbness 
  • Brittle toenails 
  • Unhealing sores or ulcers
  • Leg skin may turn pale or bluish. 

Risk factors 

  • Older Age 
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • If you do smoking 
  • Diabetic 
  • Obesity 
  • Family history
  • Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) 

Mostly, athletes develop overtraining syndrome because they push themselves to cross their limits. They don’t give time to recover the overstrained muscles. So constant pressure over legs causes OTS. 

Signs and symptoms 

  • General aches and pains 
  • Washout feeling
  • Drained 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Leg soreness
  • A sudden drop in performance 

Risk factors

  • Excessive strain on legs 
  • A sudden increase in training
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis

The lower back spine is called lumbar spinal. Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing space within the spine. Narrowing of the lumbar spinal doesn’t occur all of a sudden. It narrows slowly for many decades. Narrowing space can put pressure on the veins, which are passing through the lower back.

Signs and symptoms 

  • Pain in the legs 
  • Leg weakness and numbness
  • Weakness and numbness in the buttocks 
  • Pain into thigh and leg
  • Back pain

Risk factors

  • Obesity 
  • Age 
  • Smoking 
  • Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome can cause a sudden shaky, numb, or jittery uncontrollable feeling in the legs. It usually occurs while resting. It is also known as Willis-ekbom disease.

Moving the leg eases the uncontrollable sensation temporarily. 

Signs and symptoms 

  • An unusual sensation begins after rest 
  • Relief with movement 
  • Leg twitching (at night time)
  • Electric sensation
  • Aching 
  • Itching

Risk factors 

  • Smoking 
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Have nerve damage 
  • Being pregnant 
  • Family history
  • Muscle cramps

Tired legs can be a sign of muscle cramps. Muscle cramps can occur due to the overuse of legs. Give your legs some time to rest until your symptoms subside. If still the symptoms remain the same or get severe, then see your doctor.

Signs and symptoms 

  • Sharp pain
  • Heaviness in the legs
  • May appear hard lump of muscle tissue
  • Tired legs 

Risk factors 

  • Age 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Medical conditions like thyroid disorder, diabetes, nerve disorder
  • Pregnancy 

Heaviness in legs may be caused due to pregnancy because the growing fetus puts excessive pressure on the lower abdominal veins, and extreme force increases the blood pooling in the legs. Throughout pregnancy, you may experience cramping, tired and heavy legs or varicose veins.

Signs and symptoms

  • Heavy & tired legs
  • Pain or cramps in the legs 
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Tiredness and heaviness in the legs are the most common symptoms reported by the people suffering from MS conditions.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic illness, and this condition involves your Central Nervous System (CNS) means your brain and the spinal cord.

 Multiple Sclerosis makes it hard for the brain to convey signals to the rest of your body. This condition affects the communication issues between the brain and the body.

Signs and symptoms 

Symptoms may vary upon the amount of nerve damage

  • Numbness and weakness in limbs (it can be in one or more limbs)
  • Muscles fatigue
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vision problems are also common
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty in walking

Risk factors 

  • Age 
  • Family history  
  • Certain infections
  • Autoimmune disease 
  • Smoking  
  • Chronic venous insufficiency 

This medical condition occurs when the veins aren’t able to send back blood from your limbs to your heart. Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the wall and valves of the leg veins don’t work effectively. 

CVI causes blood to pool in the veins of the legs, and blood doesn’t flow back properly to the heart.

Signs and symptoms 

  • Swelling & heaviness in the leg (especially in the lower leg and ankle)
  • Aching or tiredness in the leg
  • Flaking or itching in the legs 
  • The skin may appear reddish-brown 
  • Leg cramps
  • Weak legs 
  • Pain that gets worse when you stand
  • Tightness in the calves
  • Leg ulcers

Risk factors 

  • Obese
  • Age over 50 
  • Family history
  • Pregnant 
  • Smoking 
  • Lack of exercise
  • Standing for an extended period
  • Sitting for too long.
  • Obesity

Being overweight invites several health issues. Obesity may cause heavy legs due to the excess weight on the legs. 

Overweight can put extra pressure on the joints, tendons, and muscles of the legs. 

Obesity can also cause circulation problems and worsen the feeling of heavy legs.

Signs and symptoms 

  • Aching 
  • Heaviness

Risk factors 

  •  Lack of physical activity 
  • Unhealthy eating habits 
  • Genetic
  • Thyroid disorder 
  • Spider veins 

Spider veins are very much similar to varicose veins. Spider veins are the smaller and closer version of varicose veins. Spider veins are a group of tiny vessels that usually develops in the legs and face. Veins will appear red or blue colored and close to the surface of the skin. They seem like a spider web.

Signs & symptoms 

  • Swelling 
  • Throbbing
  • Aching(especially in the evening)
  • Itching & tingling 
  • Heaviness & fatigue in leg 
  • Cramping 
  • Twisted or bulging veins will appear
  • Skin rashes
  • Skin discoloration 
  • Veins will appear red, dark blue or purple
  • Burning sensation
  • Throbbing or stabbing pain

Risk factors

  • Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
  • Obesity 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Blood clots in the veins / DVT

Blood clots can cause heavy and fatigued legs. Blood clot refers to the clump of blood, which changes the liquid state of blood into a gel-like state and restricts the blood circulation process. Blood clots that occur in deep veins are called Deep Vein Thrombosis(DVT). It’s a severe medical condition and mostly occurs in legs.

Signs & symptoms 

  • Swelling
  • Severe pain 
  • Tenderness
  • Cramping 
  • Burning or warm sensation 
  • Heavy or fatigued legs
  • The skin around the affected area may appear pale or red, blue.

Risk factors

  • Injury or damage veins
  • Overweight 
  • Family history
  • Undergoing hormone therapy
  • Smoking 
  • Seated for too long

All the symptoms, as mentioned earlier, may vary according to the affected area and the seriousness of the condition.

When to seek help

Occasionally feeling heavy and tired legs are normal and expected, but when these two symptoms don’t go away and worsen day by day and interfere in your daily routine. If the symptoms occur along with other symptoms like pain, swelling, stiffness, numbness, or other signs, as mentioned before, then it’s time to seek help from doctors. 

How to prevent it

Few precautions can be taken to prevent these conditions.

  • Maintain weight 
  • Exercise daily 
  • Stop smoking and drinking
  • Maintain blood pressure & cholesterol
  • Maintain diabetes
  • Avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods.  

These are the few precautions that may reduce the risk of getting the conditions mentioned above. 

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