Nighttime leg pains could be due to several causes, including a problem in your veins.
Imagine slipping into bed for a restful night’s sleep. But instead of restful slumber, leg pains jolt you awake. You wake up the following day feeling tired and frustrated and wonder why your legs hurt when you lie down.
Nighttime leg aches could result from several conditions, such as arthritis or a pulled muscle. But have you considered the problem might also stem from sluggish blood flow in your veins and arteries? Let’s look at how poor circulation in your legs may keep you up at night.
What causes nighttime leg pain?
You don’t have to worry about occasional aching legs due to overexertion, as it should go away soon. But persistent pain that worsens at night can indicate a more serious medical issue and may have something to do with your circulatory system.
Your heart is at the center of your circulatory system. From there, blood flows through your arteries and veins, with the arteries carrying oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to your organs and tissues. The veins then return the blood to the heart, filling it with oxygen before the process repeats.
But when blood flow is blocked or slowed in the arteries or veins, you’ll feel the symptoms most acutely in your legs. A vascular specialist can diagnose the exact cause, but these two conditions are most likely causing your leg to hurt when you lie down at night:
Peripheral artery disease. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when deposits of fats and cholesterol narrow the arteries in the legs. This buildup of plaque restricts blood flow, leading to pain and cramping when walking, a cold feeling on the skin of the legs, shiny or discolored skin, and leg sores.
Nighttime leg pains due to PAD may indicate the most severe form of the condition, critical limb ischemia. If the leg pains persist even at rest, see a vascular specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Therapies include losing weight, eating healthy, and controlling your cholesterol level. Quitting smoking is strongly recommended, as well.
Venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency refers to poor circulation, specifically in the leg veins. As mentioned previously, veins pump blood back to the heart aided by tiny valves inside the veins. The one-way valves open and close to push blood upward to the chest. However, if those valves weaken, blood backflows into the vein, causing pain, swelling, cramps, itchiness, heaviness, and varicose veins. More advanced cases of venous insufficiency could result in leg sores and possibly blood clots.
While varicose veins may be an inherited condition, obesity, lack of exercise, or sitting or standing for long hours can also restrict blood flow in the veins. If you have varicose veins, you may notice your legs hurt more at night when you lie down. Blood accumulates in the veins throughout the day, leading to increased swelling and pain at night.
Exercising, losing weight, and wearing compression stockings can all boost circulation in the veins. Sleeping with your legs elevated can also move blood from the legs back to the heart and reduce pain and swelling. While those measures can temporarily relieve symptoms, you may want to explore several minimally invasive surgical procedures to remove blocked veins and free your circulation to finally get a good night’s sleep.
Is it time to treat your veins?
Varicose veins can negatively affect many aspects of your life, including stopping you from getting the sleep you need. But you don’t have to live with the pain of varicose veins! Center for Vein Restoration operates four locations in New Mexico and offers a wide range of minimally invasive surgeries for venous insufficiency. Each clinic is led by an experienced vascular physician who will thoroughly examine your veins and decide what treatment option is best for you.
Michael Harding, MD, is board-certified in vascular medicine, cardiology, and internal medicine. Chandran Vedamanikam, MD, is a board-certified phlebologist in venous and lymphatic medicine and family practice.
Don't live near a New Mexico CVR vein clinic location? No problem! With over 100 vein clinic locations in 22 states and the District of Columbia, there's sure to be a CVR vein center near you.
Schedule a consultation online or call 1-800-FIX-LEGS (800-349-5347) for more information.
801 Encino Place NE
Albuquerque, NM 87102
2220 Grande Boulevard SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124