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A woman bending over to massage her swollen legs caused by standing all day.

Swollen Legs

5 Common Causes of Swollen Legs + An Alarming One

The term “Swollen Legs” is a multitasker. It refers to a variety of conditions that all revolve around one commonality: Fluid build-up (But more on this later).

Regardless of the exact condition, swollen legs can be a sign of substantially worse problems waiting for you down the road. Not to mention the discomfort you might be bearing right now. Symptoms like swelling, stiffness, numbness, and tingling are just the start. In severe cases, the skin becomes stretched, ulcers appear, and difficulties standing and walking become prevalent.

Swollen legs can sneak up on you. After all, we’re always going somewhere—Always doing something—and it can be easy to brush off the little things. However, it won’t be easy to brush off the big ones.

Here are some common causes of swollen legs:

  1. Fluid Build-Up
  2. Prolonged Sitting or Standing
  3. Injury or Trauma
  4. Blood Clots
  5. Venous Insufficiency
  6. Heart Failure


Fluid Build-Up and Swollen Legs

The technical term for fluid build-up is “Edema.” It’s a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the tissues and cavities of your body. This watery fluid is just that: Water. Well, for the most part. It varies based on which underlying condition caused it and often contains blood plasma, interstitial fluid (The fluid that surrounds your cells), and other proteins.

What can complicate edema, even more, is how skin does not swell with it; it’s your tissue beneath the skin that swells, not the skin itself. Your skin is forced to stretch and make room for it. This causes a range of secondary symptoms that lessen the quality of your life just as much as the edema does. Things like dryness and itching are precursors to ulcers and sores.

Temporary fixes for swollen legs caused by fluid build-up are limited. Not to mention, they’re reactive. Not proactive. These don’t prevent swollen legs. They only alleviate the symptoms, things like massages or elevating the legs.

Fluid build-up is a big deal and is often at the core of most other conditions involving swollen legs.


Prolonged Sitting or Standing

It’s been said before, here at Wellness and Pain, “The human body was made to move.” When you don’t move enough, issues arise. Prolonged periods of sitting or standing can cause swollen legs. They impede the normal flow of blood and fluids throughout your body. Whether you experience leg swelling after sitting at a desk all day or tired legs from standing all day, what comes down must go up… Or was it the other way around?

Anyway, your heart is always working, always sending blood down your extremities, and trying to pull it back up. When you move, this is easy. When you don’t, the flow of blood and fluid in the legs becomes impeded, which causes fluid to accumulate in those tissues and cavities. Your legs can become achy and tired. They can feel painful and heavy.

Temporary fixes for swollen legs caused by prolonged sitting or standing include movement and exercise. Compression stockings also help alleviate swelling. Again, these are only after the fact.


Swollen Legs from Injury or Trauma

Even if you don’t suffer chronically from swollen legs, you can still be susceptible to them. Anyone can.

Acute injury or trauma to your legs can damage the lymphatic system and blood vessels—Your lymphatic system is the network of organs and vessels throughout your body responsible for aiding your immune system. It also drains lymph (The colorless fluid containing white blood cells that coats your tissues) into your bloodstream. So, pretty important.

Inflammation can trigger greater blood flow and fluid leakage in the affected area, resulting in more swelling. More swelling can mean more inflammation. And so on. In worst cases, blood clots can form, either partially or completely halting the flow of blood in that area. However, just because blood stops flowing doesn’t mean fluids stop leaking. It only gets worse.

Temporary fixes for swollen legs caused by injury and trauma can be tricky. Applying ice or a cold compress can help. So can rest. Of course, seek help from a healthcare professional.

Blood Clots

Though blood clots can have various causes, from pre-existing conditions to injury or trauma, they often result in a shared symptom: Swollen legs (More specifically the affected leg). A blood clot (Thrombus) is a gel-like clump of blood that is typically the last step in coagulation. These are good when they occur in the right places. A vein is not one of them.

An illustrative depiction of a blood clot blocking a vein in swollen legs.

They block the flow of blood, causing fluid to accumulate and pressure to build. The affected area and surrounding tissues can swell, become discolored and warm, and radiate pain. Your veins can become visibly enlarged.

IMPORTANT: Blood clots are serious, and they have no temporary fixes. You must seek medical attention immediately, as blood clots in your legs can be potentially life-threatening.

Venous Insufficiency and Swollen Legs

“Venous insufficiency” might sound like a complicated term. It’s not. Let’s break it down. “Venous” simply refers to your veins, and “Insufficiency” is the same as “Inadequate” or “Lacking.” It means the veins in your legs aren’t quite what they used to be.

Normally blood is circulated through your heart and into the rest of your body. Your legs actually have valves within their vessels that assist in re-circulating that blood back to your heart. After all, that’s a long way to travel against gravity—Think of them as little pit stops. As time passes, they can wear out, not working the same. Blood and waste products that need to be filtered begin to accumulate in your legs. Soon, you may notice your legs are swollen, fatigued, and feel abnormally heavy.

As with swollen legs caused by blood clots, there is no temporary fix for venous insufficiency. The problem is too far gone. You may alleviate symptoms, but medical attention is required.


Bonus: Heart Failure

Yes, heart failure. It sounds like a serious thing, and that’s because it is. Thankfully, it doesn’t solely refer to your heart suddenly stopping. It refers to your heart being unable to pump effectively. If your heart can’t pump effectively, it can’t pull all that blood and waste from your legs.

This can lead to stasis (Pooling of blood) in your legs, causing them to swell and feel tight or heavy. It’s not always the case, but swollen legs can certainly be an early sign of heart failure.

A while back, The National Library of Medicine put out an article on the warning signs and symptoms of heart disease. In it, they say, “Swelling (edema) in your lower legs is another sign of a heart problem. When your heart doesn’t work as well, blood flow slows and backs up in the veins in your legs. This causes fluid to build up in your tissues. You may also have swelling in your stomach or notice some weight gain.” (Warning signs and symptoms of heart disease: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia)


A Permanent Fix for Swollen Legs

So yeah, the term “Swollen Legs” is a multitasker. With so many causes, conditions, and concerns, it can be easy to get lost in the sea of temporary fixes. It can be treated after the fact, right? They’re only symptoms. But what happens when you’ve treated them so many times you don’t know what else to do? What happens when the symptoms become too far gone? What if there are no temporary fixes?

With so much on the line, it’s important to know there is a solution right for you. There’s a healthcare specialist waiting who can get to the root of your symptoms. You don’t have to troubleshoot anymore, and you don’t have to treat after the fact. No more guessing. There is a swollen legs treatment that works.

Severe leg cramps causing a woman to stop walking and massage her ankle.

Severe Leg Cramps

Severe Leg Cramps and Where They Can Occur

Asking someone where severe leg cramps can occur might seem like a silly thing to do. But there’s more to it—Actually, there’s a lot more. These sudden and intense episodes of pain are utterly debilitating. Oftentimes, they’re accompanied by tightness and spasms and can feel like someone is twisting your leg into impossible knots. Your entire body is affected, making it difficult to move. You are not the only one either. The Medical University of South Carolina recently put out a newsletter stating, “It is estimated that 60 percent of adults have cramps from time to time.” They further explain that “The frequency increases as we age.” (Muscle Cramps & Spasms)

So, let’s get to the meat of the matter!

You are right. Of course, severe leg cramps occur in the legs. More specifically, the muscles of the legs, and there are a lot of them. In fact, the largest muscle of the human body can be found there. You might be sitting on it right now. It is the gluteus maximus! If that wasn’t enough, the longest muscle can be found there too—You won’t be sitting on this one. It’s the sartorius, a thin muscle that runs down the upper thigh. Not to mention all the other intricate muscles that work to support your hips, knees, and ankles.

Here’s where most people report having severe leg cramps, from the most common to the least:

  • Thighs
  • Inner legs
  • Hamstrings
  • Feet (Yes, the feet too)

The human body was made to move, to go places and do things. It is the legs that make that happen. All the more reason to understand their major muscle groups, how they work together, and exactly where your cramp might be occurring.

Thigh Cramps

The thigh is an absolute powerhouse. More muscle means more chance for severe leg cramps. Made up of numerous key muscles that work together to not only facilitate movement and stabilize lower extremities, the primary ones are the:

  • Quadriceps femoris
  • Hamstrings (Even more on this later)
  • Adductors

The quadriceps femoris (“Quad” for short) is a large muscle group located at the front of your thigh. It’s responsible for extending your knee and straightening your leg. The hamstrings are located in the exact opposite place: The back of your thigh. They are responsible for flexing your knee and bending your leg. Finally, the adductors are a group of muscles located on the inner portion of your thigh and are connected to your pelvis. They work in unison to bring your legs back center.

Highlighted muscles of the upper and lower leg in motion before sustaining severe leg cramps.

Whether it be walking, running, or jumping—Anything, really—these key muscles work together in a beautifully coordinated way. They are what propels your body forward. The quad extends your knee, and your foot pushes off the ground. Then, your hamstring works to slow the subsequent descent of your body. All the while, your adductors maintain your balance in preparation for the next step.


Inner Leg Cramps

Just like the thigh, the inner leg contains several key muscles that work together harmoniously to control the movement of your ankles and knees. On top of that, they specialize in stabilizing your ankles and knees. Some of the primary muscles susceptible to severe leg cramps are the:

  • Tibialis anterior
  • Soleus
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Plantaris

Located on the front of your shin, the tibialis anterior is responsible for two very fancy-sounding movements. The first, dorsiflexion (Lifting the foot upward). The second, inversion (Turning the foot inward). The soleus is located just under your gastrocnemius (Or the larger calf muscle). It helps with plantar flexion (Which is pointing your foot downward). The gastrocnemius also helps with this. Finally, the plantaris is a small, slender muscle that runs between the soleus and gastrocnemius, helping with the same movements.

FUN FACT: The plantaris is commonly considered to be a vestigial (Accessory) muscle and is often harvested for tendon grafts elsewhere in the body.

These key muscles work together in controlling and stabilizing the movement of your knees and ankles. The tibialis anterior and soleus work nonstop to control what direction your foot points. At the same time, the gastrocnemius and plantaris work to ensure you have the power needed for sudden movements.


Hamstring Cramps

Like a lot of muscle groups that are often referred to as just one muscle, the hamstring is an entire group of them. They’re located on the back of your thigh and work together to produce movement by coordinating strength and stability between your hips and knees. They are the:

  • Biceps femoris
  • Semitendinosus
  • Semimembranosus

The biceps femoris is the most lateral muscle of the group (Or the one furthest away from the center of your body and inner thigh). It acts on both the hip and the knee. The semitendinosus is just one step over and is responsible for hip extension and knee flexion. Then the semimembranosus is the largest and most medial muscle of the hamstrings (Or the one closest to the center of your body and inner thigh). It also helps with hip extension and knee flexion.

When these muscles contract, they work together to produce movement at the hip and knee joints. For example, when running, the hamstrings contract to extend the hip and flex the knee. This allows your leg to swing backward into the next phase of the gait cycle (The time between two steps). Sustaining severe leg cramps here will bring your day to a screeching halt.


Severe Leg Cramps in the Legs and Feet

If you thought the legs were complex, just wait. The foot has numerous muscles that work together to deliver stability, support, and flexibility to your foot and lower leg. They can be susceptible to severe leg cramps too. Some of them we have already talked about. Others are new. They are the:

  • Tibialis anterior
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus
  • Peroneus longus and brevis
  • Flexor digitorum longus
  • Extensor digitorum longus

The peroneus longus and brevis wrap around the outside of your lower leg and foot. They are responsible for everting your foot (Or turning it upward). They also assist in dorsiflexion. The flexor digitorum longus and extensor digitorum longus are located deep within the calf. They run down the length of the lower leg and connect to the foot. However, they do two vastly different jobs. The flexor digitorum longus helps to flex your toes, while the extensor digitorum helps to extend them.

These muscles play a crucial role—If not the most crucial role—in maintaining balance and stability. This is especially true when you walk on uneven or rocky surfaces. Not to mention, they provide natural shock absorption that helps to protect the bones, joints, and tissues of your entire body.

By working together in an intricately coordinated way, the muscles of your foot provide the foundation for movement for all your lower extremities. Severe leg cramps throw a wrench in that.

Severe leg cramps causing a woman to stop walking and massage her ankle.

Treatment for Severe Leg Cramps

Understanding the major muscle groups of your legs, how they work together, and exactly where your leg cramp might be occurring is integral in determining the best course of action and treatment for severe leg cramps. Many of these muscle groups are interconnected and dramatically dependent on each other. A cramp in one can send a rippling effect throughout the others. This causes a severe detriment to the quality of your life and your enjoyment of it.

You were made to go places and do things, to experience life at its fullest. So don’t let something treatable get in your way. Don’t let it slow you down. And never, under any circumstances, let it make you stop moving.

ANY and ALL leg muscle cramps can be treated with the proper information and a caring specialist.

Painful legs cause a woman to massage her calf at the edge of her bed.

Painful Legs

Painful Legs: 5 Symptoms and Why They Shouldn’t be Ignored

Painful legs, it’s such a generic term. However, it has a lot of meaning. It means even more for the quality of your life. Although a lot of its symptoms overlap each other, they’re still different and need to be treated as such:

  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • And Soreness

In today’s modern age, everything is go-go-go. From school to work, family, and friends, everyone needs you and there’s always something that needs to be done. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find time for yourself, let alone seek treatment for something that you might’ve been living with for a very long time. After all, not a lot of us regularly ask, “Why do my legs hurt?”

Other times, the very prospect of treatment can be daunting. The Washington Post even put out an article stating, “We procrastinate on tasks we find ‘difficult, unpleasant, aversive or just plain boring or stressful.’ If a task feels especially overwhelming or provokes significant anxiety, it’s often easiest to avoid it.” (Haupt, 2021)

The fact is this: Treatment for painful legs doesn’t have to be… Well, painful. You’re worth taking care of. If not, who’s going to be there for the people who need you most? Who’s going to do what only you can? But action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. Here are five common symptoms of painful legs, what you need to know about them, and what you should do next.


Burning Leg Pain

Burning in the legs is a wide-reaching symptom of painful legs that refers to the sensations of heat, warmth, or pain in the legs. Some people even describe it as a tingling or numbness, while others say it’s more like a sharp, stabbing pain. It can be constant or intermittent, and the feeling itself can range in intensity from mild discomfort to severe pain either localized to a specific area or felt throughout both legs. It may be accompanied by other symptoms and has the potential of getting worse at night or during physical activity.


Aching Pain in Both Legs

Aching pain in both legs can feel like a dull, persistent pain that oftentimes feels impossible to find or reach. It can be felt almost anywhere, from your muscles to your bones and joints, and can be localized to a specific area or be felt throughout the entirety of both legs. It may be accompanied by fatigue, weakness, or cramping. As with other symptoms, the pain can get worse with physical activity or prolonged sessions of standing or sitting. It can also be intensified by certain weather conditions, such as humidity or cold.


Chronic Painful Legs and Stiffness

Like aching pain in both legs, chronic leg pain and stiffness is a persistent and long-term discomfort that doesn’t just happen overnight. Rather, it grows and gradually becomes worse. Sometimes, you become so used to it it’s hard to recognize it anymore. It’s characterized by most as deep, achy, or dull pain, often giving rise to stiffness and a reduced range of motion in either one or both legs, and even the rest of the body. The pain may be felt in the muscles, bones, or joints, and can be localized to a specific area or be felt throughout the leg. Again, it can unintentionally be made worse with physical activity or prolonged sessions of standing or sitting.


Chronic Painful legs and Weakness

Chronic leg pain and weakness is typically where one’s quality of life takes a dramatic turn for the worse, regarding painful legs. You literally can’t do as much as you could before and it’s simply because you lack the strength. Of course, chronic leg pain and weakness is persistent and long-term, but it’s also accompanied by reduced muscle strength and difficulty in performing daily activities. The pain can be dull, achy, or sharp, and can be felt in the muscles, bones, or joints. It may be accompanied by stiffness and decreased range of motion. The lack of strength can truly be felt when trying to stand, walk, or climb stairs. This pain and weakness can affect the quality of life and make it difficult to perform daily activities.


Chronic Muscle Soreness in Legs

Chronic muscle soreness in the legs is characterized by persistent and long-term discomfort or pain specifically in the muscles of the legs—And there are A LOT of muscles in your legs. This soreness can be described as a deep ache, tenderness, or stiffness, and it may be accompanied by overall weakness, fatigue, or cramping. As always, it can be localized to a specific area or be felt throughout both legs and can be intensified by physical activity or prolonged sessions of standing or sitting. It can also be made worse by a lack of physical activity or poor posture.


How the Human Body Responds to Painful Legs

The human body is an incredible thing, designed for survival in almost every way. As such, it can adapt to a negative stimulus, especially if it starts small and is drawn out over a long period of time. However, adapting to leg pain—Or, even ignoring it—isn’t dealing with it. It’s only allowing it to get worse. Allowing it to get worse leads to greater complications down the road.

Any time you experience any sort of leg pain, it can cause you to inadvertently change your gait or stride, which can quickly lead to an uneven distribution of your weight across your body, causing greater stress on your lower back and spine. This subsequently causes the muscles in your lower back to overcompensate for the pain in your legs, leading to further muscle strain and tension. It can also cause the spine to become misaligned, leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility.

Athlete stops running and holds back due to discomfort caused by painful legs.

Uneven strides can cause one leg to bear more weight than the other. This is likely to lead to uneven wear and tear on the joints in your lower back and spine, which can cause degeneration and wear and tear over time. These complications aren’t just physical either. They’re mental and emotional. They’re cyclical.

The Importance of Seeking Treatment for Painful Legs

Any sort of perceived stress placed on your body can send you into a sort of low-level state of fight-or-flight. Staying in this state of fight-or-flight releases more of the neurochemical transmitters that add stress to your body. This stress and these transmitters then have the potential to increase the inflammation already experienced by your body. All of this is commonly associated with increased instances of fluctuating mood, emotional instability, and even experiencing anxiety and depression, which then turn in on themselves to create deeper cycles of pain, fight-or-flight, stress, and so on. These cycles are incredibly hard to break. This combined with what you’re already experiencing can be unbearable. You don’t need to go through it alone.

So, if you suffer from any of these symptoms of leg pain, know there’s a way to treat it. It doesn’t have to get worse, and it certainly doesn’t have to affect the quality of your life. You’re worth taking care of. The first step is simple: See a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment of your leg pain.

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