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What Causes Leg Aches After Exercise

author image Brenda Barron
Brenda Barron is a writer, editor and researcher based in Southern California. She has worked as a writer since 2004, with work appearing in online and print publications such as BabyZone, "Cat Fancy" and "ePregnancy." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from California State University, Long Beach.
What Causes Leg Aches After Exercise
A woman is touching her leg. Photo Credit macniak/iStock/Getty Images

It's normal to experience some muscle soreness following a vigorous bout of exercise, but generalized aching or pain in the legs could be an indicator of another, more serious condition. If your leg aches are severe or last longer than a day or two, you should see a doctor right away for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Venous Fluid

Post-exercise leg aches could be caused by fluid that has accumulated in your extremities. This occurs when the veins don't move blood out of your legs quickly enough. The sensations caused by this buildup include cramps, aches and burning. Those who have been generally inactive or who are overweight are more likely suffer from a buildup of fluid in the veins.

Strained Calves

Straining your calf muscle could also be to blame for your leg aches after exercising. A strain in your calf could be caused by a failure to warm up prior to starting your workout. Generally, rest is required to allow the strain to heal completely, before you resume exercising.

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Vascular Disease

The sudden onset of pain or aching in your legs after exercise could be a symptom of peripheral artery or peripheral vascular disease. This condition is a clogging of the arteries that are not contained within the heart. When this happens in the legs, you may feel weakness and pain. Several risk factors exist, including being over the age of 50, having high blood pressure or diabetes and smoking.


Delayed onset muscle soreness is typically caused by the microscopic tears in your muscles caused by exercise. DOMS can happen days after any type of strenuous exercise like strength training, jogging or walking up and down hills. Mostly DOMS is just experienced as an ache; but other symptoms could include swelling and tenderness around the muscle. Rest and ice; and do not resume the particular exercise that caused the ache, until you feel better.

Treatment Types

The treatment method required to soothe leg aches after exercising will depend on their root cause. General muscle pain can be treated by resting, elevating your legs and icing the area. An over-the-counter pain reliever may also be used. If the cause of the pain is venous fluid buildup or peripheral artery disease, you should see a doctor for proper treatment options.

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