Heavy leg syndrome is a medical term that describes the feeling of tired, often stiff and aching legs. Whilst this may be normal after an intense workout, this feeling may also occur due to underlying medical issues.

What can cause heavy legs?

There are several causes of heavy legs:

Nervousness and restless legs syndrome (RLS)
RLS is a feeling that primarily occurs whilst resting. It is often described as an aching, shaky or numb feeling. The specific cause for this condition remains unclear, however, relief can often simply be achieved by movement.

Overtraining syndrome (OTS)
That certain workouts and exercises cause some form of discomfort in your legs, comes as no surprise. However, athletes can experience OTS when pushing too hard during a workout without giving their body enough time to recover. Constant exercise every single day may prevent muscles from repairing themselves and lead to weak and heavy legs. This problem is most often seen in cyclists and runners.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
PAD is a cardiovascular disease of the veins and arteries. It is caused by a buildup of fat in the walls of the arteries and thereby narrowing them. Over time, they can become so narrow that blood cannot properly pass through them consequently, blood circulation is reduced. Since this most commonly happens in the legs, it is often accompanied by a feeling of tired, painful and heavy legs.
Common risk factors for PAD include smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and varicose veins

Chronic venous insufficiency is a widespread disease of the lower extremities which is characterized by impairment of the valves inside the veins. Consequently, those veins lose their function of supporting the upwards blood flow against gravity back to the heart. If vein valves are not closing properly, blood can flow backwards and “pool” in the leg. The resulting pressure can damage the veins and lead to varicose veins. Early symptoms entail tired, swollen and heavy legs. As the disease progresses, symptoms can worsen and complications such as leg ulcers can develop.

Are varicose veins sore?

What can I do to prevent CVI and varicose veins?

The formation and progression of varicose veins is multifactorial and many risk factors such as gender, increasing age, prolonged standing, obesity, pregnancy as well as family history have been identified.
In order to reduce the risk of developing varicose veins, as many risk factors as possible should be eliminated. Thus, maintaining or working towards a healthy weight, regular exercise and avoidance of prolonged standing to maintain blood circulation are important measures to prevent disease or slow down progression. Moreover, in cases of family history of venous disease preventive measures such as wearing of compression socks may be appropriate and should be discussed with a physician.


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