Why Do My Legs Ache All the Time? Know It Here

As a runner, experiencing leg pain can be one of the worst things that can happen to you. Sadly, whether you like it or not, leg pain is something we all have to deal with at one point or another.

If you are to address the issue effectively, you need first to understand what causes leg pain, what are the symptoms of the condition and how to identify whether it is serious. We will answer these questions in this article.


Understanding Leg Pain

Although your leg pain may be felt in different parts of your leg such as in your ankle, hip, or feet, the most common cause of the pain is inflammation. It can be experienced in either one or both legs and is usually described as being dull, numbing, tingling, burning, aching and the like. (1)


Pain in your leg can be either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) which can be either mild or severe. Additional symptoms of pain may include throbbing, tingling sensation, weakness, and cramps. When it comes to the cause of the pain, injury and disease are two of the most likely triggers. (2)

Pain Due To Injury

This is one of the more likely causes of your leg pain especially if you are a runner. Some of the common injuries that are sports related are the hamstring strain, shin splints, stress fractures and popliteus tendinitis. Each of these conditions is caused by different activities. We will discuss each of these issues one by one.

1. Hamstring Strain

What is Hamstring Strain?

Your hamstring is a group of muscles that are located on the back of your thigh. These muscles work together to help you straighten and bend your knee. (3) A hamstring strain happens when there is a pull, partial tear or complete tear in these muscles.

Hamstring strains usually occur in the central part of the muscle and are graded with a severity of 1 to 3, 3 being the most severe that can take a long time to heal.

Symptoms of a hamstring sprain include: (4)

  • Bruising
  • Tenderness in the area
  • Pain in the back of the thigh
  • Pain in the lower buttock
  • Pain when bending over or stretching the leg
  • Pain during exercise
  • A snapping or popping feeling

You are likely to have a hamstring sprain if your muscles are weak, tight or fatigued.

2. Stress Fractures


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What is Stress Fractures?

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone that is often caused by overuse due to repetitive activities. They can also be caused by osteoporosis and are common in the bones that bear weight such as those in the lower leg and foot. (5)

​One of the possible and more likely reasons for you to develop a stress fracture is if you increase the intensity of your physical activities too rapidly. Another trigger can be changing the surface of your runs from track to a pavement and so on. Improper footwear such as shoes that are not flexible enough can also be a factor. (6)

​Stress fractures are common in athletes such as basketball players, gymnasts, and runners.

3. Shin Splints

What is Shin Splints?

Shin splints are often associated with running and happen when the muscles or bone tissue around your tibia become inflamed. This often happens on the inner border of the tibia where muscles attach to the bone.

They develop when the muscle in the leg is overused because of physical activity especially because of increase in intensity or duration of your routine. (7)

Symptoms Of Shin Splints:

Having flat feet or rigid arches or wearing worn-out shoes increase the risk of developing shin splints. Some of the common symptoms of the condition include: (8)​

  • Swelling in the area
  • Pain along the border of the tibia
  • Sharp, throbbing pain during exercises and after
  • Pain worsens when the area is touched

Two Type Of Shin Splints:

There are two types of shin splints that vary in the location of the pain. (9)

  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is when the inside of your tibia and is the more common kind of shin splint.
  • Tibial spine pain is when the pain is in the front of your shin bone and is more serious but rare.

Quick Way To Test:

One way to determine whether you really have a shin splint is to place your fingertips along the shin.

  • If you feel pain whenever you exert pressure on your shin such as when you flex your foot, you know you have a shin splint
  • If you can pinpoint a specific spot that is extremely painful, you probably have a stress fracture.

4. Compartment Syndrome

What is Compartment Syndrome?

This is often a result of swelling or bleeding after an injury and is triggered by pressure build-up inside an enclosed muscle space. After a serious injury that causes bleeding or swelling, fluid may accumulate in the muscles and prevent adequate blood flow. (10)

Some Causes Of Compartment Syndrome

  • Too tight bandage
  • Compression on the limb over the long period of time
  • Blood clots
  • Crash-related injuries

5. Popliteus Tendinitis

This condition happens when the popliteus tendon which is located at the back of the thigh and runs to the front of the shin gets inflamed. This tendon works by helping prevent the lower leg from twisting outward when you run and preventing the femur from moving on the tibia. (11)

When you run downhill, you put extra strain on the tendon than it is used to every day. This pressure can cause the inflammation of the tendon. Other causes include sprinting on uneven surfaces, running with fatigued muscles and running for a long period of time without doing warm-ups. (12) During any of these activities, your ankle may roll inwards and tear the tendon. (13)

Symptoms of the condition include acute pain at the moment of injury, redness, swelling, difficulty in walking, and tenderness in the area.

Pain Due To Medical Conditions

Although the mentioned five causes of aching legs are the most common among runners, there are also some medical conditions that can trigger the pain. In some cases, experiencing aching legs is a symptom of a more serious condition that needs attention. These conditions include: (13)

  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone cancer
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Varicose veins
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Paget’s disease of bone


If you have been experiencing leg pain for some time, these are the most common causes. Although in some cases, there may be underlying issues that trigger your leg pain, it is likely that your pain is a result of an injury. If this is the case, you can easily prevent yourself from getting the same pain again by following these easy steps: (14,15)

  • Always increase the intensity of your workout/running program gradually. This will allow your body to get conditioned for more taxing physical activities in the future.
  • Warm up for longer periods of cold weather
  • Whenever you feel tightness or aching in your legs or back, stop running. This will prevent muscle tears.
  • Be careful when changing running surfaces
  • Always wear shoes that provide enough flexibility. Replace worn out shoes as soon as possible.

As a runner, it is easy to get carried away with your training routine but be conscious that you don’t overtrain. Overtraining will not only trigger your leg aching but has been found to also cause muscle loss.

If you lose too much leg muscle, your performance will also suffer because your legs will not have enough strength to build muscle.

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