Why Do My Legs Ache at Night Like Growing Pains?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Why do my legs ache at night like growing pains

Are you struggling to sleep due to persistent leg pain or discomfort similar to the growing pains you experienced as a child? While leg aches and pains might appear typical after a strenuous day, you should talk to your vascular specialist about your nightly leg pain. This discomfort could be a sign of an underlying problem, and a vascular specialist is your best resource for identifying the cause and finding solutions for better sleep and pain management.

Is it Normal for My Legs to Ache at Night?

Some aching and discomfort as you relax for the night is normal, especially if you've experienced a change in your activity level. While common, discomforts like chronic aching and throbbing in your legs shouldn't prevent you from sleeping well. Some non-urgent causes for aching legs at night include:

Muscle Fatigue: If you've had a particularly active day, your leg muscles might ache at night due to fatigue. Fatigue-related leg pain is common after intense exercise or long periods of standing or walking. Nightly leg pains are especially likely if you've recently increased your exercise intensity or started a new activity.

Injury: A past or recent injury, such as muscle strains or sprains, could be causing your nightly leg pain.

Dehydration: Dehydration can cause muscle cramps in the calves and shins, especially when combined with increased activity. When dehydrated, low levels of certain minerals like potassium, magnesium, or calcium can contribute to muscle cramps and discomfort, particularly at night.

Tight Muscles: Both overexertion and inactivity can cause tight muscles. When we are inactive, the blood flow to our muscles decreases, which decreases oxygen delivery, leading to muscle stiffness and discomfort. Similarly, exercising can also cause tight and stiff muscles, especially if we overwork ourselves, don't stretch properly, or don't warm up before exercising.

Your Sleeping Position: Sleeping on your stomach or with your toes pointed downwards (plantar flexion) shortens your calf muscles throughout the night. Even small movements in this position can trigger a leg cramp. Try sleeping on your side with your feet comfortably resting on the mattress or in any position that keeps your toes neutral and your calf muscles relaxed.

Poor-fitting Footwear: Wearing shoes that don't fit properly can cause strain on your leg muscles as they try to compensate for the lack of support. Strain from ill-fitting shoes can lead to muscle fatigue and discomfort, including leg aches at night. Shoes that are too tight or restrict movement can also cause swelling in your lower legs and feet and reduce circulation, causing discomfort.

If you regularly lose sleep because of nightly leg pain, talk to your vascular specialist to address any underlying causes.

What Could Be the Underlying Cause of My Leg Pain at Night?

While leg pain at night is common, you should tell your vascular specialist about any changes to your lower extremities, including leg pain, especially if you have any underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic venous insufficiency.

Vascular causes for nightly leg pain and discomfort include but aren't limited to:

Varicose Veins: Varicose veins can cause a sensation of heaviness, aching, or itching in the affected area. Patients may experience increased symptoms at night, as blood tends to pool in the legs due to gravity when you're less active. Increased pressure in the varicose veins can lead to swelling, achiness, and a sensation of heaviness.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI): Chronic venous insufficiency is caused when the healthy one-way valves in the veins become damaged, causing blood to pool in the lower veins instead of pumping back to the heart. Patients with chronic venous insufficiency may experience more uncomfortable symptoms at night, including aching or throbbing, heaviness or tightness in the legs, and uncomfortable skin sensations like tightness and itching.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): Peripheral artery disease is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries, resulting in leg pain due to reduced blood flow. Other symptoms of peripheral artery disease include cool skin, skin color changes, infections, and slow-healing wounds. If you experience these symptoms, especially nighttime leg pain, see a doctor for early detection and treatment to minimize complications.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a severe medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, typically in the legs. Blood clots can block blood flow and cause severe complications, such as pulmonary embolism (PE), a blood clot that travels to the lungs. It's essential to seek medical attention immediately if you experience any symptoms of DVT or PE.

Deep vein thrombosis is a medical emergency. Seek medical treatment immediately if you have:

  • Redness or discoloration of the leg, usually in the calf or below the knee

  • Pain or tenderness in the affected leg that increases when walking or standing

  • Sudden swelling in one leg that gets worse over time

  • Chest pains

  • Disorientation, nausea, or dizziness

Instead of waiting or facing a potentially lengthy ER visit, consider the Center for Vein Restoration's DVT Rule-Out Services. Our comprehensive DVT Rule-Out services offer scans, guidance, and potential follow-up care designed to get you the answers you need quickly.

Deep vein thrombosis can occur at any time of day, not just at night. However, if your leg pain comes on suddenly at night, accompanied by the above symptoms, seek treatment with a medical provider.

If you experience leg pain at night, it should not affect your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or have a good night's rest. You must talk to your vascular specialist if you notice any new varicose or spider veins or changes to the veins or skin on your calves and lower legs, along with your nightly leg pain. These symptoms could be signs of chronic venous insufficiency or other severe vascular issues.

How Can I Prevent Leg Aches at Night?

A good night's sleep is essential for your vascular and overall health. At Center for Vein Restoration, we recommend you discuss any sleep disruptions with your vascular specialist as underlying conditions like chronic venous insufficiency or peripheral artery disease need monitoring and treatment. There are some lifestyle changes you can make to get relief from aching legs at night, including:

Improve Your Sleep Position: Sleep on your back or side with a pillow between your knees to decrease pressure on your legs and feet. Sleeping on your stomach or back puts your foot prone or flexed, which can stress your calves and cause discomfort. Avoid using blankets or heavy bedspreads that could pull your feet downwards or into positions that could stress your calf muscles.

Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise is good for your vascular and overall health and improves circulation. Walking, swimming, or biking for 30 minutes several times a week can help prevent late-night aches and decrease your risk for vein disease.

Limit Alcohol, Caffeine, and Nicotine: Substances like alcohol and caffeine can contribute to dehydration, which can cause leg cramps. Reducing these substances can also improve overall vascular health by lowering your risk of cardiovascular diseases and vascular disorders and improving sleep quality.

Maintain a Healthy Diet and Weight: Excess weight can cause swelling, cramping, numbness, and pain in the lower legs by putting pressure on veins and arteries, which affects blood flow to the legs. These symptoms can be more prominent at night.

Maintaining a healthy diet low in sugar with whole grains, leafy greens, and lean protein can help you lose weight and stay active, relieving the pressure on your lower legs and vascular system.

Stretch and Warm Up: Before starting any new sport or activity, warm up properly and stretch beforehand to avoid night cramping or aches. You can also add a few minutes of stretching to your nightly routine to help with aches and pains.

Compression Stockings: Compression stockings are a helpful solution for relieving leg aches and feeling heaviness. They can prevent fluid pooling in the legs by applying external pressure that promotes proper fluid movement and reduces swelling.

Compression stockings provide mild to moderate pressure to support your leg muscles, reducing fatigue and achiness, especially after a long day. Talk to your vascular specialist about how long you should wear your compression stockings and if you should wear them all night, as they may not be medically appropriate for some patients.

Treat Nightly Leg Discomfort with Center for Vein Restoration

Center for Vein Restoration's expertise can help you find relief for nightly leg discomfort. While occasional leg aches are common, persistent, or severe discomfort may indicate underlying health issues.

Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional, particularly a vascular specialist, is vital if discomfort disrupts your sleep or daily life. Our board-certified vascular experts offer accurate diagnoses and tailor treatment options to your needs.

For assistance or to book a consultation, contact a Patient Services Representative at 240-512-4927 or schedule your appointment online at a nearby Center for Vein Restoration.

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