Our bodies can experience all sorts of sensations. Occasional pain in unexpected places isn’t really unusual, especially as you get older and you might start to get various aches and pains. However, a pain that happens in specific situations or that keeps coming back can be worrying.
One type of pain that many people find themselves dealing with is a throbbing pain in one or both legs when they lie down. There are several different things that could be causing this, which may result in different types of pain felt in different ways in your legs.
If you’re experiencing throbbing leg pain when you’re lying down, finding out what the cause could be is important. It could be a sign of something serious or it might be something that’s not a big deal. But understanding what it could be and seeing a doctor when you need to is important.
Table of Contents
- What Can Cause Leg Pain When Lying Down?
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Blood clots
- Varicose veins
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Can Cause Leg Pain When Lying Down?
Pain in one or both legs when you lie down could be caused by a few things. It could be something to do with the leg itself or it might be a symptom of something else. Here are some of the things that might cause leg pain when you’re lying down.
Sciatica is pain along the sciatic nerve. This is a nerve that goes from your lower back to the leg, which can get pinched and irritated. Sciatic usually only affects one side of your body at a time and might feel like a shooting pain, throbbing, or burning.
Lying down can make sciatic pain worse. If you’re lying on your back, the natural curve of your spine is more pronounced and the passageways where the nerves exit the spinal column are decreased in size. If you have a herniated disc or bone spur, it can also pinch a nerve and cause sciatic pain. Lying on your side might put direct pressure on the affected nerve and lying with your hips too far to one side can also pinch nerve roots.
Lying in the right position can often help when you have sciatica. If lying on your back, you can raise your legs by putting a pillow under your knees. When lying on your side, try to sleep on the unaffected side.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the arms or legs. It usually affects the legs, restricting blood flow due to a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.
While many people with PAD have mild or even no symptoms, leg pain when walking or exercising is common. If the condition gets worse, it can also result in leg pain when resting or lying down. To prevent leg pain from PAD, it’s best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including exercising and eating a healthy diet.
A blood clot in your leg could cause it to throb in pain. Blood clots can happen for a number of reasons, including to people who have recently been traveling. Being on long-haul flights and sitting for a long time can increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis.
A blood clot will usually affect only one leg and can cause the skin to turn red. The pain may be throbbing or cramping and there might also be localized warmth and swelling. It’s essential to get medical help right away if you think you might have a blood clot.
Varicose veins result from poor circulation. They become swollen and twisted and can cause a feeling of pressure, aching, or heaviness due to leaky valves and weakened vein walls. At night, your legs can feel painful after a long day.
To help address the problem, you can try to be active to keep blood flowing. Elevating your legs will help to improve blood flow too, and you can also do calf raises when you’re sitting down. Compression stockings might also be useful.
Sometimes injury could be the cause of throbbing pain in your legs at night. You might have an inflamed muscle or tendon that is causing you pain as it heals. However, it’s best to get it checked out if it’s causing you pain at night, as it’s not a typical symptom of injury.
A fracture could also be a possible injury causing your leg to hurt at night, but you would also expect to feel pain and discomfort during the day. You may know when you injured yourself but didn’t get it looked at by a doctor at the time. Getting a diagnosis can help you make sure you get the right treatment.
When to See a Doctor?
If you frequently feel pain in one or both legs at night, it’s important to have the problem assessed by a doctor. When you discuss your symptoms with a doctor, they can help you to start identifying the most likely cause.
Occasional pain might not be anything to worry about or can be remedied with home treatments or lifestyle changes, but it’s always best to check with a doctor.
Get Help from an Online Doctor
Making an appointment with an online doctor makes it easier to talk to a medical professional when you need to. There’s no need to go to a doctor’s office when you can talk to someone qualified, experienced and knowledgeable virtually.
Our online doctors are all board-certified medical professionals who can help you with leg pain or any other medical complaints that you might have.
If you have throbbing leg pain when lying down, the cause could be one of a number of different things. It’s difficult to tell what it could be without discussing your symptoms with a doctor.
If you’re concerned or want to find out more, making an appointment to speak to a doctor should be your next step. A correct diagnosis will help you to find the right treatment or ways to manage your leg pain when lying down or any other time it hurts.
- Iain D. Beith, Andrew Kemp, Jonathan Kenyon, Matthew Prout, Thomas J. Chestnut, Identifying neuropathic back and leg pain: a cross-sectional study, PAIN®, Volume 152, Issue 7, 2011, Pages 1511-1516, ISSN 0304-3959, Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2011.02.033 .
- Koes B W, van Tulder M W, Peul W C. Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica BMJ 2007; 334 :1313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39223.428495.BE
- Heit JA, Silverstein MD, Mohr DN, Petterson TM, O’Fallon WM, Melton LJ. Risk Factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism: A Population-Based Case-Control Study. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(6):809–815. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.160.6.809
- London N J M, Nash R. Varicose veins BMJ 2000; 320 :1391 doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7246.1391
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD). Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350557
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