What Causes Tired Legs and What to Do About It

Medically Reviewed By Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
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Tired legs, or legs that seem heavy or fatigued, typically just need rest. However, this feeling is sometimes a symptom of an underlying health condition that needs treatment, such as multiple sclerosis, low potassium levels, and more.  Any muscle in your body can feel sore or tired, and your leg muscles are no exception. Everyone’s legs feel tired sometimes, but tired legs should not be severe or a daily occurrence.

Keep reading to learn about the potential causes of tired legs and ways to regain your energy. 

What causes tired legs?

A person receiving a leg massage
Milles Studio/Stocksy United

There are several conditions that can cause tired legs.

Overuse 

The muscles in your legs are responsible for carrying the weight of your upper body. Occasionally, they may feel tired simply from a busy day of walking and standing for a long time. 

Tired legs are also a common occurrence after a rigorous workout. Heavy exercise can lead to muscle fatigue. Researchers note that not allowing your muscles to rest can lead to:

Insufficient circulation

If your legs do not receive enough blood flow, you may feel a heavy or tired sensation, along with muscle cramps or throbbing. 

Possible causes of insufficient circulation include: 

Having obesity

If your legs feel tired daily, it could be mean that you have obesity. Research indicates that even though people with obesity have stronger antigravity muscles, their legs appear weaker when you compare their maximum muscular strength to their body mass. 

Pregnancy

Pregnancy can increase general fatigue. In addition, if you are pregnant, you carry your own weight and your baby’s. The extra weight of your baby can put pressure on the veins in your legs, which impacts circulation. Some people develop varicose veins, which can make their legs feel tired.

Hormonal changes and fluid buildup during pregnancy can also impact your legs.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is another possible cause of tired legs. This condition causes nerve damage in the regions of your spinal cord and brain that stimulate the muscles, which can lead to weakness.

Additionally, people with MS tend to move less due to symptoms, such as pain and difficulty with balance. This can lead to the deconditioning of the leg muscles from lack of use. 

Low potassium levels 

Severe hypokalemia, which is low potassium levels in the blood, can cause extreme muscle weakness or temporary paralysis in your legs. Potassium plays a crucial role in muscle contraction.

Other symptoms include muscle cramps, heart palpitations, and constipation.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis, a condition that involves the spinal canal narrowing, can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. When this occurs in the lower back area, the condition can cause your legs to feel weak or tired.

Other symptoms can include pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs and feet.

What are the treatments for tired legs? 

The treatments for tired legs depend on the cause. 

CauseTreatment 
overuse resting for a few days
applying ice if any swelling or inflammation accompanies the weakness
insufficient circulation increasing your daily movement
switching to loose-fitting clothing
elevating your legs at night
getting varicose vein surgery
wearing compression socks
managing diabetes
taking cholesterol medication 
obesitymaintaining a moderate weight
engaging in exercises that support your knee joints 
pregnancy sleeping on your left side to relieve pressure on your vein that supplies your legs with blood flow
resting and elevating your feet
staying hydrated
engaging in low impact exercises, such as walking and swimming
MSattending physical therapy to strengthen leg muscles
using an assistive device to walk to prevent muscle deconditioning
hypokalemiataking prescription-strength oral or intravenous potassium
spinal stenosisstabilizing the spine through physical therapy
taking over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve pain and inflammation
undergoing surgery to restore spinal alignment and relieve pressure on the nerves and spinal cord

What is the outlook for people with tired legs?

The outlook for people with tired legs depends on the cause. Overuse is a common cause with the most positive outlook, since relief usually just requires rest.

Other causes can be life threatening, such as hypokalemia. There is currently no cure for MS, but treatment may delay the progression.

Following your doctor’s treatment plan is the best way to address tired legs.

Can you prevent tired legs?

Some causes of tired legs are preventable. Maintaining an active lifestyle with low impact exercises and having set rest periods can help you prevent leg fatigue from overuse. Staying active can also help you maintain a moderate weight and improve the circulation to your legs

Getting periodic massages, wearing loose-fitting clothing, and dry brushing may also prevent circulation issues. Some people may benefit from sleeping with their feet elevated. 

If you have hypokalemia, your doctor may recommend certain vitamins for your tired legs. Following a low salt diet that includes plenty of potassium, magnesium, and chloride is also beneficial for preventing a future hypokalemia episode. 

When should you see a doctor about tired legs?

Contact a doctor for an appointment if you are dealing with consistently or heavily tired legs or if any swelling or leg cramps accompany the fatigue. Also, notify your doctor if you are pregnant and experience tired legs.

Other frequently asked questions

Here are a few other common questions about tired legs. Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP, reviewed the answers.

What are tired legs a symptom of?

Tired legs can be a symptom of various conditions. It may be something as simple as overuse, with rest being the best way to resolve it.

Other people may experience tired legs as a result of an underlying condition, such as peripheral artery disease or MS. If you have tired legs that do not get better with rest, contact your doctor for a diagnosis.

What is the cure for tired legs?

The cure for tired legs depends on the cause. If you experience tired legs after a heavy workout, be sure to set aside time to rest before working out again. If you have an underlying condition, your doctor may need to prescribe treatment to resolve your symptoms.

What deficiency causes tired legs?

A severe potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia, can cause tired legs. Treatment consists of replenishing potassium in the body and addressing the condition causing the deficit.

Summary

Everyone experiences tired legs at some point in their lives. However, if your legs feel consistently tired, it is a good idea not to ignore it. Leg fatigue can be a symptom of a serious health condition.

Talking with your doctor about leg cramps or feelings of heaviness or weakness in your legs is the first step toward regaining their strength and energy. 

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Medical Reviewer: Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. Castro, D., et al. (2022). Hypokalemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482465/
  3. Spinal stenosis. (2020). https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/spinal-stenosis
  4. Tafti, D., et al. (2022). Multiple sclerosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499849/
  5. Tomlinson, D. J., et al. (2015). The impact of obesity on skeletal muscle strength and structure through adolescence to old age. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4889641/
  6. Wan, J.-j., et al. (2017). Muscle fatigue: General understanding and treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5668469/