Why Do My Legs Feel Heavy During Perimenopause?

April 11, 2024.

medically reviewed by Patricia Shelton, MD

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS ARTICLE

Why do our legs feel heavy in perimenopause?
How do I manage heavy legs?
When should I go to the doctor?

One of our sisters on the perry platform shared recently: 

“Are extremely heavy legs normal in perimenopause? My legs feel like as if I’m wearing an exercise weight on each of them!”

Although this might not get talked about as much as hot flashes or brain fog, heavy legs are absolutely a normal symptom of perimenopause. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to address this issue and feel better again.

Why do our legs feel heavy in perimenopause?

Estrogen helps to keep blood vessels flexible throughout the body. With the hormone fluctuations that come with peri, and the overall drop in estrogen levels as women go through the menopausal transition, blood vessels tend to become stiffer. This can make it more difficult for blood to move through the veins and back to the heart. Blood can easily become trapped and stagnant, and this often creates a sensation of heavy legs.

Estrogen also helps to maintain muscle tissue. As estrogen levels begin to drop, women tend to lose muscle mass and strength. With less muscle strength available to help support the weight of your legs, they may start to feel heavier.

It’s also important to recognize that it’s not just hormonal changes that can lead to a feeling of heavy legs. Spending a long time without moving also interferes with blood flow, which can cause your legs to feel heavy. Sitting is generally the worst position for blood flow, but long periods lying down can still cause this issue.

Exercise is also important for moving blood and other fluids through the legs. Not getting enough exercise can cause fluid buildup, which leads to heavy legs. Peri sometimes robs us of energy, and we may not get the exercise that we used to, which can lead to heavy legs. 

At the same time, getting too much intense exercise can also cause heavy legs. A strenuous workout causes muscle damage and inflammation, and it takes time for the body to repair this. If you don’t get enough rest in between workouts, then the inflammation can cause your legs to feel heavy. Sometimes, we may get so worried about not getting enough exercise that we push too hard – this can damage the body, and can lead to a feeling of heavy legs.

How do I manage heavy legs in perimenopause?

There are a few things that may help to relieve the feeling of heavy legs:

Make sure that you’re getting enough exercise overall – at least 20 to 30 minutes every day. You can try brisk walking, dancing, yoga, aerobics, or any other activity that gets you slightly out of breath and gets your heart pumping a little bit faster. This should help with your heavy legs, and is also hugely beneficial in many other ways. 
Try getting up and taking a short walk whenever your legs start to feel heavy. This will help to stimulate blood flow and may relieve the heavy sensation.
Do resistance training to help you maintain muscle mass. This can involve lifting weights or pulling on resistance bands. Although women tend to lose muscle mass during and after the menopausal transition, resistance training helps to keep your muscles as strong as possible, which can help your legs to feel less heavy.
Consider whether you may be getting too much exercise. If you do a workout that’s intense enough for your muscles to feel sore afterwards, then you’ll need a day or two of rest before you do another intense workout. You can do some light activity on your rest day, but you shouldn’t do another intense workout until the soreness is gone. If you’ve been working out while you’re still sore from a previous workout, then you might be overtraining. Getting the rest your body needs will likely help your legs to feel less heavy.
Whenever you’re sitting, try to put your feet up. This could mean getting a stool to put in front of your chair at work, or putting up the footrest on your favorite armchair when you’re relaxing at home. When your feet are down, gravity pulls extra blood into your legs and feet, which can cause them to feel heavy. Although this will be better than sitting, staying in any position for a long time can interfere with blood flow, so it’s still best to get up and move around as often as you can.
Do your best to maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight traps more blood in your legs and can lead to the sensation of heavy legs. Peri can certainly make this more challenging, but there are effective ways to battle perimenopause weight gain.
Try relaxation techniques to help reduce muscle tension in your legs. Tense muscles can lead to a feeling of heavy legs. A technique known as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) has been shown to help relieve tension and anxiety. To do this technique, you tense a small group of muscles for a few seconds, and then gently release the tension. Move one by one through your muscle groups, tensing and then releasing.

When should I go to the doctor?

Although lifestyle changes often make a big difference, they aren’t always enough to get rid of the feeling of heavy legs. There are certain medical conditions that can cause this symptom, and it’s possible that you’re experiencing one of these. Various conditions of the blood vessels, nervous system, or muscles can potentially cause heavy legs. 

If you try the lifestyle tips listed above, but you just can’t shake the feeling of very heavy legs, then it’s a good idea to discuss this with your doctor. You should also consider talking to your doctor if the sensation of heavy legs becomes severe enough to interfere with your life. Tell them exactly what you’re experiencing. After learning more about what you’re feeling, examining you, and considering your medical history, your doctor will be able to determine if any additional testing is needed to rule out serious medical conditions that may be causing your heavy legs.

Main takeaways

Heavy legs can be caused by peri-related issues like stagnant blood flow in the legs and loss of muscle strength.

Exercise helps to stimulate blood flow through the legs, and may relieve the sensation of heavy legs.

Sitting for long periods of time leads to stagnant blood flow in the legs and feet. Get up and walk around as often as you can, and try to put your feet up whenever you’re sitting.

Resistance training, either by lifting weights or pulling on resistance bands, helps to maintain muscle tissue and may help with heavy legs.
If your heavy legs don’t get better despite lifestyle changes, or if the issue is severe enough to interfere with your life, talk with your doctor. There are some medical conditions that may cause a feeling of heavy legs.

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Patricia Shelton

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