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Achy Legs: Top 7 Causes

Achy legs can be due to a variety of things. From standing on your feet all day to sciatica, there are many possibilities.

Most of the time, it’s a benign symptom that will go away on its own. In other cases, you may need to treat it with massages, pain killers, or other therapeutic options.

If the pain becomes unbearable, or doesn’t go away, it’s recommended that you see a doctor. They’ll be able to give you a more accurate diagnosis.

Cause #1: Sciatica

achy legs The first most common cause of achy legs is sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the nerve that runs down the length of your entire leg and lower back.

If this nerve becomes trapped or inflamed, then sciatica occurs. This can result in leg pain that’s quite severe. The pain can be chronic and or come and go.

It may also result in tingling in your legs. This condition is most likely to develop in people over the age of 40, although it can happen in younger people as well.

Bottom Line: The sciatic nerve runs along the lower back and leg. If it becomes inflamed (a.k.a. sciatica), then it can cause achy legs.

Cause #2: Restless Leg Syndrome

woman with restless leg syndromeRestless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which a person can’t keep their legs still. According to WebMD, it affects up to 10% of the U.S. population.

It can occur in both genders and at any age, although older people are more likely to experience it. Restless leg syndrome can be caused by many chronic diseases, including:

  • Kidney Failure
  • Diabetes
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Iron Deficiency
  • Medications

When a person can’t keep their legs still, it can lead to sore and achy legs.

If you think that you have restless leg syndrome, talk to your doctor. There are treatment options available for this condition.

Bottom Line: People with restless leg syndrome constantly move their legs, which can make their legs feel sore, tired, and achy.

Cause #3: Tumor

tumor achy legsAlthough rare, a tumor can cause pain in the legs. It depends on the tumor’s size and location.

As the tumor grows, it can compress nearby nerves, leading to chronic pain. The only way to rule out a tumor will be to get a CT scan or MRI.

If it does turn out to be a tumor (rare but still a possibility), then your doctor will show you appropriate treatment options.

These include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or a combination of all three.

Bottom Line: Although rare, achy legs can be due to tumors in the legs that are compressing nearby nerves.

#4: Peripheral Arterial Disease

Another potential cause for achy legs is peripheral arterial disease. This is a disease that is most commonly found in older people.

It happens whenever arteries become narrowed due to the accumulation of fatty deposits.

People who consume a lot of animal products, as well as older people, are most likely to get it.

If left untreated, it can lead to death. Getting more exercise and eating a whole food plant-based diet can reduce your risk.

Bottom Line: Peripheral arterial disease results in blood vessels getting narrowed due to the accumulation of fatty deposits.

#5: Varicose Veins

The main duty of the veins is to get deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and/or gnarled.

Any vein in the body has the potential to become a varicose vein. It’s quite common in the legs and feet, as well as in older people.

Some people are asymptomatic (have no symptoms) while others experience achy legs and discomfort.

It’s also possible for varicose veins to be a sign of a more serious underlying medical problem.

Bottom Line: Varicose veins are veins which have become gnarled and/or enlarged. This can lead to pain and discomfort.

#6: Tendonitis

Tendonitis simply means inflammation of a tendon. It can be caused by a variety of things including diabetes, injury, and more.

The tendon is the part of the body that connects muscle to bone. They exist all throughout your body.

If a tendon in your leg gets inflamed, then it can lead to chronic pain and discomfort. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a relatively common cause for tendonitis.

Bottom Line: Achy legs can be due to tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendon. It’s common caused by injury, RA, and diabetes.

#7: Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid is an endocrine gland that sits just below the Adam’s apple. It secretes hormones that help regulate metabolism in the body.

When the thyroid secretes too much hormone, it’s called hyperthyroidism. There are many symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, including achy legs.

It can also cause you to feel hot all the time. Fortunately, it’s a treatable condition.

Bottom Line: If your thyroid gland secretes too much hormone, then it can result in hyperthyroidism. It’s a treatable condition.

Other Possibilities for Achy Legs

Here are a few other potential causes for legs that ache:

  • Previous Injuries: Ask yourself: have you injured a bone or muscle in your leg in the past? If so, it’s possible that it hasn’t fully healed. Age has a lot to do with it. Older people generally take much longer to heal from injuries than younger people.
  • Physical Exertion: If you spend a lot of time on your feet and get little rest, then it can cause leg pain. Pulling a leg muscle also falls under this category. Women who are pregnant might also experience leg discomfort since they’re carrying around extra weight.
  • Poor Diet: Are you eating a lot of processed food or a lot of animal-based foods? If so, it’s recommended that you cut back. Consider switching to a whole food plant-based diet which is healthier for your body.

Finally, are you getting enough exercise? Lack of exercise is associated with poorer health.

By staying active, your symptom might go away. Plus, you’ll become much healthier.

Bottom Line: Physical exertion, a poor diet, and previous injuries are other possibilities for your symptom. 

When Should You See a Doctor?

If your achy legs haven’t gone away after a few days, or if they’re getting worse, go see a doctor. If you can’t walk or put weight on your leg, then it’s recommended that you get help immediately.

In most cases, it’s due to injury. However, it can also be due to diabetes, RA, and other diseases.

For this reason, don’t brush this symptom aside. If it gets worse, seek help.