Do you wake up with heavy legs in the morning? You feel like you are dragging concrete blocks around with your legs. Your legs may feel heavy and stiff, as if they can’t wake up and function properly. You know that feeling, when it seems your legs are not part of your body. In some cases, it can feel as if you are walking through wet tiles with a heavy load strapped to your legs, requiring a great effort to get them moving. For some people, this unpleasant sensation usually occurs at the end of the day, in hot weather or when they are tired.
So why do you wake up with those heavy legs?
There can be a wide variety of causes of heavy legs, and many of these depend on your lifestyle and your general health. However, some common causes are:
Poor circulation: It occurs when blood flow from the legs to the heart is impaired, causing the heaviness. This can either happen during the day or night – poor circulation during the day, can be caused by sitting at a desk or standing at a spot for too long, resulting to tired, achy legs, which can continue into the night and the following morning; or poor circulation during the night- when your legs don’t get sufficient oxygen, blood and nutrients as you sleep.
Venous issues: At times, leg muscles lose some of their strength and the venous system becomes more sluggish, causing heaviness in the legs. Left untreated, the problem can lead to more serious issues, such as varicose veins.
(Varicose veins are damaged veins that struggle to pump blood efficiently away from the legs). This can lead to them becoming overworked, and consequently to pooling of blood and toxins which often results to the problem at hand.
Insufficient sleep. As we sleep, our body is given time to rest and repair damage caused to cells and tissues during the day. If you don’t get enough sleep, or if you sleep poorly, you may find that your legs can’t recover from the regular wear and tear of the previous day.
Too much strain on the legs during the day. You may find that your legs are simply tired from being strained or under pressure the previous day. Check whether you have been exercising more, standing up for too long or walking more than usual.
Insufficient oxygen reaching the legs. This can be caused by a lack of iron, which is vital for transporting oxygen around the body.
Nutrient deficiencies. Such as iron, magnesium, vitamin D, calcium which are all vital for muscle function.
Many risk factors can be involved:
Gender- being female, the problem is more common in women; Lack of exercise or too much of it; Tight clothing as well as wearing shoes with heels that are too high; Genetics and age.
Heavy legs can be relieved and prevented using simple measures and accessible botanicals. These can be particularly useful if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above. And of course, finding solutions to heavy legs is important both to improve your general well-being and to keep the problem from getting even more serious. Please make certain that there isn’t any underlying condition which needs to be addressed.
Trythese: Piper guineense (black pepper, uziza in Igbo, iyere in Yoruba)- when mixed with vegetable soup will not only enhance the flavour but is also helpful in enhancing blood circulation. You may add a pinch to turmeric powder and drink as an infusion.
Chlorophyll– for enhanced circulation and healthy cells, prepare fresh ‘green drinks’, chlorophyll from green leafy vegetables such as garden egg, bitter leaf, cucumber, pumpkin, spinach, dandelion, stinging nettle etc. Take ½ tumbler.
Horsetail (misin-misin goro in Yoruba)- an amazing herb that helps to improve circulation throughout the body. It tones, heals and reduces inflammation of our blood vessels. It can be used topically or internally to treat varicose veins. Infuse one teaspoon of the dried, whole plant in boiling water for 15 minutes. Take 2 x daily.
Ginkgo biloba– improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky. Ginkgo is available as liquid extract, tablets, capsules or dried leaf for teas.
Cayenne pepper– is one of the best spices for improving circulation, so if you aren’t plagued by spicy foods add a dash of pepper on your food. You may also dilute it in a cup of hot water. This can be consumed by the affected individual on a regular basis and preferably two times every day.
Ginger, onions, and garlic are three beneficial herbs that you’ll definitely need to add to your meals. Not only would they stimulate and improve the health of the circulatory system, but also keep you fit. And the good thing is that these herbs are always readily available in our local markets.
Massage– your legs in an upward motion (to encourage blood flow) using essential oils or special creams or gels. I usually drop some mint and rosemary essential oil in sheabutter. Applying this concoction before going to bed can cool and soothe tired legs. Take a small amount in the palm of your hands, rub your hands together to warm up the butter, then gently apply it on the legs. This can be repeated twice or three times a day as required.
Water – drinking enough water during the day is essential for the organs to perform their daily functions. When you drink enough water, oxygen levels in your blood increase, leading to better circulation and improving your overall health. Also try to get regular/moderate exercise.
Elevate feet: during the night to help blood flow more easily through the legs. The easiest way to do this is to place a pillow under your feet while you sleep.
Improve your diet-good things to focus on are- ginger, scaly fishes; green, leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, pumpkin, garden egg and spinach), seeds, nuts and a variety of fruits (cucumber/beets).
Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed and high-salt foods.
Reduce sodium intake: this may reduce the discomfort caused by heaviness in your legs. You may even change the type of salt you use.
Do not wear high heels for long periods of time. Do not wear tight pants or socks, which can hinder circulation. And also do not stand or sit for prolonged periods.
Taking the above botanicals and steps may help reduce the heavy legs you experience when waking up in the morning. Since the causes can be varied, you may have to try a few of them to find one that works for you.