Leg pain has numerous causes, but is mostly due to wear and tear, overuse, or trauma to the joints, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues. In addition, leg pain can also be caused by lower spine issues, blood clots, varicose veins, and poor circulation. In this article, we’ve outlined exactly what may be causing your pain and how you can deal with it.
What Causes Pain in Left Leg at Night?
1. Vascular Disease
Leg pain is a good indicator of vascular disease, where the accumulation of fatty deposits in the veins and arteries leads to inflammation and weakness in these blood vessels.
Atherosclerosis of the leg blood vessels will often cause left leg pain at night and the sensation of the leg falling asleep. As the condition progresses, and the plaque builds up, the patient will typically develop a burning pain in the toes and feet, especially at night when lying flat or with the feet elevated. This is known as rest pain, and it occurs because the feet cannot receive sufficient blood flow, even at rest, due to the artery blockage.
Although there are no treatment options available to cure leg pain when lying down, the following measures may ease some of the symptoms:
- Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen.
- Drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Applying hot and cold pads to the afflicted area to promote muscle relaxation.
- Stretching the calves whenever your legs become painful.
If you are implementing these steps and still getting leg pain, you will probably need to make an appointment with your doctor to further diagnose your condition.
2. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
RLS is a common affliction characterized by a tingling sensation in the legs at night, and the constant urge to keep them moving. This feeling may disappear if you get up to walk and stretch your legs, but it returns upon going back to bed. The condition may merely be irritating, but can cause leg pain when lying down. You may also feel twitches in your legs. RLS can cause major sleep disruption and you could be left tired and irritable during the day.
- Take a warm bath or shower before going to bed.
- Try placing alternate hot and cold compresses on your legs to relieve the pain.
- If you’re getting the symptoms when you’re lying in bed, massage your legs to stimulate circulation.
- If you can’t sleep, go for a short walk to the kitchen or bathroom. This can make your symptoms disappear.
- Try reading or doing crossword puzzles in bed before you go to sleep to take your mind off the RLS. However, don’t use your smartphone or tablet, as the light from the screen can make it harder to get to sleep.
3. Other Causes
Left leg pain at night can also occur for various other reasons:
- An inappropriate sleeping position
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Trapped nerves
- Minor muscle strains
- Magnesium deficiency
- Cramping in the muscles
- Shin splits
- Bone fractures
What to Do About Pain in Left Leg at Night
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to relieve pain in left leg at night:
- Firstly, if you are a smoker, try to quit, as smoking can exacerbate atherosclerosis.
- Regular exercise improves the circulation and lowers blood pressure, and the muscles will feel more relaxed at night following exertion during the day.
- A healthy diet, full of fruit and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, and protein, with limited saturated fat and sugar, will help you to control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as promoting weight loss.
- Losing weight can reduce your blood pressure and cuts your chances of developing diabetes, one of the major causes of leg pain.
- Finally, try to reduce your stress levels, to make yourself feel relaxed and get a better night’s sleep.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately, as you may require urgent medical attention:
- Inability to walk or bear weight on the affected leg.
- Signs of inflammation in the calf: swelling, redness, pain, or warmth.
- Deep cuts in the leg, with exposed bone or tendon.
- A popping or grinding sound when the leg was injured.
If you see these symptoms, you should aim to visit your doctor as soon as you can, as they could indicate a serious underlying medical condition:
- A pale, cold or swollen leg.
- Swelling in both legs, accompanied by breathing problems.
- Major leg symptoms that develop for no apparent reason.
- Calf pain, especially following extended periods sitting down.
You may also need to see a doctor if you have:
- Worsening pain.
- Painful varicose veins.
- Symptoms that don’t get better following a few days of treatment at home.
- Pain during or after walks.