Pain in the legs can occur as a result of natural wear and tear, muscle overexertion, or an underlying medical condition. Older adults are more at risk of experiencing leg pain as they lose muscle mass with age. Leg pain can be very uncomfortable and can disrupt daily activities. But the good news is that, in most cases, it can be treated at home..
Causes of Leg Pain in Old Age
To treat aching legs in old age, it is important to first understand the causes of leg pain in elderly people. Listed below are some common leg pain in elderly causes.
Cramps – This is when your muscle, usually your calf muscle, suddenly contracts, causing a sharp pain in the area. A primary cause of leg cramps in elderly people is muscle loss, which can increase if a person has a sedentary lifestyle. Cramps can also happen at night and it is estimated that 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 experience night leg cramps [i]. A possible cause of night leg cramps in elderly people is a sedentary lifestyle.
Muscle strains – This is when the muscle is torn because of over-stretching. This can lead to pain and stiffness, making it difficult to move the affected muscle.
Varicose veins – Varicose veins is when the veins just under the skin gets enlarged and twisted. Varicose veins commonly occur on the lower legs and is more likely to be experienced by people over the age of 50 due to wear and tear on the vein valves as a result of aging [ii].
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - DVT [iii] occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg. Common symptoms include pain in the leg, foot, or ankle, warmer skin on the affected area, and skin on the affected are turning red or blue. DVT can be dangerous so if you suspect you have DVT, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Arthritis – Arthritis [iv] is the swelling of the joint(s) and typically occurs in people over 65 years old. Arthritis usually affects the knees and the hips.
Old Age Leg Pain Remedies
In most cases, leg pain can be treated at home. Here are some home remedies for leg pain in old age:
If you experience leg pain from a minor injury, you can use the RICE method. This method is one of the best swelling in legs home remedies if the swelling is due to an injury.
- Rest: rest the injured area to allow faster healing and prevent further injury
- Ice: apply ice to the injured area to reduce swelling and pain
- Compression: use an elastic bandage or a compression device like SPRYNG to reduce swelling and pain. You can learn more about the science behind SPRYNG here.
Elevation: lift the injured area ideally above heart level to reduce swelling
You can take over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol or Paracetamol to help relieve pain.
In order to treat leg cramps, you can apply a heating pad to the affected area. Taking a warm bath can also help. Applying heat is a great home remedy for leg pain as it helps loosen up tight muscles, which can relieve muscle cramps in elderly people.
As with heat therapy, stretching can help relieve tension in the muscles. If you have a calf cramp, simply straighten your leg and flex your foot so that your toes are pointed towards you. You should start to feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold this position for at least 5 seconds. Stop if your pain worsens. Stretching before bed can prevent night leg cramps in elderly people.
The best way to prevent leg pain in old age is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking, limit your alcohol consumption, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet. Don’t skip out on foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium as these nutrients may reduce or prevent muscle cramps in elderly people.
When to See a Doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if:
- You have a fever
- Both legs are swollen and you have difficulty breathing
- You have a deep cut on your leg
- Your leg is unusually red and warm or pale and cold
- Your unable to walk or put weight on your leg
- You heard a grinding or popping sound when you injured your leg
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if:
- You have swelling in one or both legs for no apparent reason
- You are experiencing pain while walking
- Your leg pain persists for days/gets worse
- You have painful varicose veins