Leg weakness isn’t unusual when you’ve been exercising aggressively or when you’re suffering from a bout of the flu. But when you start to notice that your legs feel weak all the time whenever you climb stairs, then it might indicate a more serious underlying condition. Don’t assume your experience is just a part of aging, and head to a doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause and get appropriate treatment.
A number of conditions could cause leg weakness while you're climbing stairs. You'll want to get checked out by a doctor to rule them out.
Addison's disease is a disorder that occurs when your body produces inadequate amounts of adrenal gland hormones, causing muscle weakness and fatigue, muscle or joint pains, weight loss, skin darkening, and low blood pressure. It’s an autoimmune disease, and in most cases, the cause is unknown. Treatment includes steroids and androgen replacement therapy.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement, in which the cells waste away and die. There is no cure, and patients eventually are unable to move and may even be unable to breathe. Prognosis isn’t good, but certain medications can help alleviate symptoms.
Blood clots are clumps that occur when the blood hardens inside a blood vessel, most often inside the lower leg. Pieces of the clot may break off and travel to the heart, lungs or brain, which is called an embolism. Symptoms can include leg pain, heaviness and weakness, sometimes accompanied by swelling, heat to the touch and discoloration. Treatment includes blood-thinning medications.
Femoral Nerve Compression
The femoral nerve runs from your spine into your thigh and helps supply sensation and the ability to move the quadriceps muscles. Injuries, diabetes and inflammation can damage the nerve and cause groin and leg pain and weakness walking upstairs. Treatment depends upon the cause of the condition.
A herniated disk refers to a condition when one of the rubbery cushions between the individual bones in your spine pushes out through a crack in the exterior and irritates nerves, causing pain, numbness or weakness. Therapy includes pain medications, steroid injections, physical therapy and, in rare cases, surgery.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. In addition to leg numbness or weakness, you may experience painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles after climbing stairs or walking. Medications, angioplasty, surgery and lifestyle changes are typically prescribed.
If your doctor rules out a medical condition, you might just need to strengthen the muscle in your legs. This can be done with regular lower-body strength-training, at least two times a week for 20 minutes per session, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some effective strength exercises for your legs include: