Heaviness in Legs

    Do your legs feel like they’re weighing you down? Are they tired, achy, or just generally puffy? Heaviness in the legs is usually caused by a dysfunction of the vascular system, resulting in swelling or edema and added weight to the legs. This heavy feeling can affect your mobility, making daily activities feel like a drag. Read on for tips on how to lighten your load and get your legs moving with ease. 


    Some key causes of heaviness in the legs include: 

    • LymphedemaLymphedema is the accumulation of excessive lymphatic fluid in the tissues under the skin, which causes swelling.  Lymphedema causes a diffuse edema noticeable due to a mound that forms on the top of the foot. 

    • Varicose veins, in combination with elongated, enlarged superficial veins in the legs, can indicate poor circulation in the legs and  lead to swelling and heaviness in the legs. Varicose veins may be associated with aching, fatigued, or “hot” legs. Relieve varicose veins by elevating the legs or wearing graduated compression hosiery. 
    • Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition resulting from thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots can occur in both superficial and deep veins. Chronic venous insufficiency results in stasis pigmentation (discoloration), stasis dermatitis (rash), and stasis ulcerations (sores) on the legs.Look for these indicators if you have poor circulation or know you're going to be immobile (like on an airplane) for extended periods. 


    Edema, or swelling, is the hallmark of conditions associated with heaviness in the legs. Your legs may also feel "full," tired, and achy. These unpleasant sensations may worsen when standing and walking, and improve with rest and elevation. 

    Relief and Prevention

    • Elevate the legs periodically during the day, particularly after you’ve been moving around or standing for long periods of time. Prop up your feet and legs using pillows or try a ready-made leg elevator. Take a moment to relax! 

    • Sleep with your legs on cushions or pillows, or elevate the foot of your bed a few inches with blocks. 

    • Check out pneumatic compression devices, such as air compression boots, which help return blood to the mid-body and reduce fluid pooling in the legs. 
    • Put on support hosiery first thing in the morning before you get out of bed! Graduated support stockings are much better at preventing swelling than reducing swelling that has already begun. Using support hosiery right when you wake up can set you up for a day with less leg heaviness. 

    • After consulting with your physician, consider trying diuretics (water pills), but don't overdo it. 

    • Start a walking program to increase musculature in your legs. This will help blood flow return to the heart and help reduce fluid in your legs. Not a fan of outdoor walking? Try an  electronic pedaler or any other low-impact exercise equipment.  
    This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider on all matters relating to this or any other condition that may affect your health.