How to Soothe Your Legs After Stress or Long Walk

Three Parts:Soothing Your Legs at HomeReceiving Alternative TreatmentsTroubleshooting Complications

Stress is ubiquitous in modern society and negatively impacts people in many ways, including their musculoskeletal systems. Stress has been known to increase muscle tension, change blood pressure and impact the release of a variety of hormones and neurotransmitters. Walking is a simple, natural, and inexpensive way to combat stress, although it might lead to tension or discomfort in your legs — especially if you're not accustomed to it. There are many ways to soothe your legs, either at home or via the hands of healthcare professionals.

Part 1
Soothing Your Legs at Home

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    Elevate your legs while resting. One reason legs get sore is because of overuse and swelling. Raising your feet while relaxing at home will help to negate gravity and allow blood and lymph fluid to exit the lower legs and return into circulation.[1] Taking your socks / nylons off will also help to reduce swelling, thus soothing them even further.
    • Raising your legs at or above your heart level is good for promoting circulation.
    • Use soft pillows to elevate your legs while laying on the sofa, but don't hamper blood flow by crossing your legs or ankles.
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    Consider an Epsom salt bath. Soaking your legs in a warm Epsom salt bath can significantly reduce pain and swelling, especially if the pain is caused by muscle tension.[2] The magnesium in the salt helps muscles relax. Don't make the water too hot (to prevent scalding), but make it as warm as is tolerable — the warmer the water, the more effective the Epsom. Don't soak in the bath for much more than 30 minutes because salty water pulls fluid from your body and may dehydrate you.
    • If swelling is a particular problem in your legs, then follow the warm salt bath with an ice bath until your legs start to feel numb (about 15 minutes or so).
    • Always remember to dry your feet thoroughly after a bath so as to prevent slip and falls.
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    Do some leg stretches. If you're walking long distances, maybe the stress in your legs is due to muscle strain. Mild muscle strains respond well to some light stretching because it relieves muscle tension and promotes blood flow.[3] The three main muscles groups to focus on are your calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. In general, hold stretches (without bouncing) for about 30 seconds. Do these three to five times daily, until the discomfort in your legs decreases.
    • For a quad stretch while standing, brace yourself against a wall, flex your knee, and try to pull your foot such that your heel touches your buttocks.
    • For a hamstring stretch while standing, bend over at the waist and try to touch your toes.
    • Warming up and stretching your leg muscles prior to walking or any athletic activity may help prevent injuries such as strains, sprains, and muscle cramps.[4]
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    Take medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin are short-term solutions to help you deal with tension, pain or inflammation in your legs. Keep in mind that these medications can be hard on your stomach, kidneys and liver, so it's best not to use them for more than two weeks on a constant basis.
    • Dosage for adults is usually 200–400 mg, by mouth, every four to six hours.[5]
    • Alternatively, you can try over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to soothe your legs, but never take them along with NSAIDs.
    • Be careful not to take medications on an empty stomach, as they can increase the risk of ulcers.
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    Change your shoes. Ill-fitting and/or excessively heavy shoes also contribute to tired and sore legs. As such, wear stable, lightweight footwear that suits your job, sport or activity. Aim for no more than a 12 inch (1.3 cm) heel. High heels crowd the toes and create more tension in the calf muscles and Achilles tendons.[6] If you're a serious runner, replace your shoes every 350–500 miles (560–800 km) or three months, whichever comes first.
    • Remember to always tie your shoes tightly, because loose shoes or flip-flops puts more strain on your lower leg muscles.
    • Minor leg injuries such as shin splints are often caused by walking (or running) uphill, on uneven terrain or on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete.[7] As such, alter your course and change the type of surface you walk on — switch to grass or dirt, for example.
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    Lose weight. Weight loss helps prevent a variety of musculoskeletal problems as there's less pressure put on the bones and muscles of the feet and lower legs. For most women, consuming less than 2,000 calories daily will lead to some weight loss every week even if you're only a light exerciser. Most men will lose weight at under 2,200 calories daily.[8]
    • Switch to lean meats and fish, whole grains, fresh produce and lots of water for the best weight loss results.
    • Many overweight people have flat feet and tend to over-pronate their ankles, so choosing shoes with excellent arch support is crucial.

Part 2
Receiving Alternative Treatments

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    Get a leg massage. Get a massage therapist to give you a thorough leg massage, focusing on the calves, shins, quads, and hamstrings. Massage reduces muscle tension and inflammation, helps break down scar tissue and promotes better blood flow.[9] The therapist should start near the inner thighs, work his way down the leg, and then back up the leg to properly remove lymph.
    • Ask the therapist to use essential oils (such as lavender) on your legs because it will help calm you and relieve stress.[10]
    • Always drink lots of water immediately following a massage in order to flush out inflammatory by-products, lactic acid, and toxins from your body. Failure to do so might cause a headache or mild nausea.
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    Consider acupuncture. Acupuncture involves sticking very thin needles into specific energy points within the skin in efforts to reduce pain and inflammation.[11] Acupuncture for stress or leg discomfort can be effective, especially if it's done when the symptoms first occur. Based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by releasing a variety of substances including endorphins and serotonin, which act to reduce pain and stress.
    • Find a licensed acupuncturist and ask friends for recommendations.[12] Most states require acupuncturists get certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine before they are allowed to practice.[13]
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    Get some orthotics made. If you have flat feet or shin splints and spend lots of time standing or walking then consider a pair of orthotics. Orthotics are customized shoe inserts that support the arch of your foot and promote better biomechanics while standing, walking and running, which helps prevent stress and tension from building up in your leg muscles.[14] Orthotics will also help reduce the risk of problems developing in joints such as the ankles, knees, and hips.
    • Health professionals that make custom orthotics include podiatrists and some osteopaths and chiropractors.
    • As an alternative to customized orthotics, consider a pair of off-the-shelf orthopedic shoe insoles — they're considerably less expensive and may provide quick relief.
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    Seek out physiotherapy. A physical therapist can show you specific and tailored stretches and strengthening exercises for your legs, and if need be, treat your sore muscles with electrotherapy such as therapeutic ultrasound or electronic muscle stimulation.[15] A physical therapist can also develop an exercise routine / program that will help you lose weight, which is helpful for stress reduction.
    • Physiotherapy is often required two to three times per week for four to six weeks to positively impact musculoskeletal problems.
    • Good strengthening exercises for your legs, aside from walking, include cycling, rollerblading, beach volleyball, swimming, and weight training.

Part 3
Troubleshooting Complications

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    See a chiropractor or osteopath. If your leg pain is chronic, aggravated by walking or particularly severe, then seeing a chiropractor or osteopath is a good idea. Chiropractors and osteopaths are spinal specialists that focus on establishing normal motion and function of the spinal joints that connect the vertebrae by manually adjusting them.[16] Problems in the spine, such as a disc herniation, "pinched" nerves, or degenerative arthritis, can cause pain, numbness and/or weakness in the legs — making it difficult to walk.
    • Although a single spinal adjustment can sometimes completely relieve your issue, more than likely it will take three to five treatments to notice significant results.
    • Chiropractors and osteopaths also use a variety of therapies tailored more towards muscle strains, which may be more appropriate for your leg issue.
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    See a medical specialist. Medical specialists may be needed to rule out the most serious causes of chronic leg problems, such as diabetic neuropathy, venous insufficiency (leaky vein valves of the lower leg), stress fracture of the tibia, infections, bone cancer, chronic compartment syndrome (swelling of the lower leg muscles), or popliteal artery entrapment.[17] These conditions are obviously not common causes of tired and sore legs, but if home care and conservative therapies are not effective for soothing your legs, then more serious problems need to be considered.
    • X-rays, bone scans, MRI, CT scans, diagnostic ultrasound and nerve conductance studies are diagnostic tests and modalities that specialists may use to help diagnose your leg issue.
    • Your doctor may also send you for a blood test to rule out diabetes, inflammatory arthritis or a bone infection.
    • You may be given compression socks to wear if the veins in your lower legs are weak or leaky.
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    See a mental health professional. If the stress is too great in your life and it's causing musculoskeletal and/or emotional problems, then talk with a mental health professional. Aside from helping with stress, anxiety and depression, cognitive-behavioral therapy can also help with musculoskeletal pain.[18]
    • Mental health professionals sometimes recommend mood altering medications such as antidepressants, which can also impact the musculoskeletal system.
    • More natural stress-relieving practices include meditation, yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing exercises.


  • Put your feet up when you are watching television. This will increase circulation in your legs and minimize the risk of blood clots and varicose veins.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops on a long-distance walk or for any sports. They don’t give your feet/legs enough shock absorption, arch support or protection.
  • A lack of minerals in your diet can negatively affect the performance of your muscles. Adequate calcium is needed for muscle contraction, whereas magnesium is needed to relaxation.
  • Focus on drinking more purified water before you go on long walks because dehydration commonly leads to muscle cramps.
  • Quit smoking because it impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to muscles and other tissues.

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Categories: Feet Knees and Legs