Poor Circulation in Legs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

poor circulation in legsPoor circulation in the legs usually also means that there is decreased blood flow to other parts of the body. It’s often a sign of an underlying health issue.

Our circulatory system has an important function. It supplies the entire body with oxygenated blood while delivering nutrients, hormones, and medications to various tissues. If you have poor circulation, it can affect your overall health. Proper circulation is important, especially when we talk about the legs. It can make it difficult for someone to perform daily activities. In many cases, someone who is suffering from poor circulation in the legs won’t be able to walk or even stand due to the level of pain.


Also read: Poor circulation in hands: Causes and how to improve it

What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Poor Circulation in Legs?

You hear a lot of people use the term “poor circulation.” In fact, people accidentally cut off their circulation all the time. For example, when a person puts a rubber band on their wrist, it can cut off circulation. What causes poor circulation in the legs?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

This is a condition whereby your legs don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand due to plaque. The plaque is fat, cholesterol, and other substances that build up in the arteries. PAD typically affects arteries that carry blood to legs. The American Heart Association estimates that eight million Americans suffer from PAD.


A condition that occurs when arteries harden due to plaque build-up. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart failure if it’s not treated. Symptoms are difficult to identify, so it’s common for it to go undiagnosed until it has progressed significantly. Atherosclerosis is often associated with aging.


This is a complication of atherosclerosis that causes the narrowing of arteries by way of constant contraction of blood vessels that reduces blood flow. In medical terms, this is called vasoconstriction. Vasospasm can affect any part of the bod,y but it’s a common cause of poor leg circulation.

Spinal cord injury

Research indicates poor circulation can be a contributing factor in spinal cord injuries. Small vessel circulation can have a tendency to decrease in those with spinal injuries because they seem to have increased risk factors for atherosclerosis. Some studies show that many spinal cord injury patients have advanced age, are inactive, use tobacco products, and have abnormal carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.

Other causes

Circulation problems can also be the result of sitting for long periods of time and not maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One of the other common health-related issues that can lead to poor circulation in the legs is diabetes. The term “diabetes foot” is related to poor circulation and indicates that a person has a reduced ability to feel pain in the foot.

There are a number of signs of poor circulation in the legs. These signs should not be ignored. Review the most common poor leg circulation symptoms below.

  • Swelling and puffiness
  • Feeling of heaviness
  • Numbness or tingling in the leg
  • Cramping in the hip, thigh, or calf muscles, especially following activity
  • Leg pain
  • Varicose veins
  • Discoloration in legs
  • Sores on toes, feet, or legs
  • Coldness in the lower leg or foot

When poor circulation in legs symptoms are severe, ulcers and skin wasting can also occur. Natural flavonoids extracted from plants may improve the extreme blood circulation.

Also read: 19 foods that increase blood flow

How to Treat Poor Leg Circulation

There are several easy approaches to treatment. Having poor circulation can be startling, especially if you notice discoloration in your legs, but it’s comforting to know that natural treatment options are available.

Here are some specific suggestions on how to improve poor circulation in the legs.

Adjust posture

Many people who work in an office have circulation issues if they sit for long periods of time hunched over a computer. If this sounds familiar, then your poor circulation treatment could involve simply getting up from time to time and walking around. You can also try placing a trash can upside down to raise your legs while you’re working. Trips by plane or train can present temporary circulation issues too, so remember to use the footrest and get up when you can. If you stand a lot, try sitting for a few minutes every hour.

Get physical

Daily walks, swimming, or cycling can be enough to keep the circulation going. Fitting at least 30-minutes of exercise into your day is good for both the circulatory system and the lymphatic system. If you prefer low impact exercises, try yoga. Many yoga poses are known to stimulate the circulatory system.

Drink water

Consuming fluids can eliminate toxins through urination, making water a good remedy for poor circulation in the legs. If you get tired of water, it’s best to drink natural juices and natural options that are infused with herbal diuretics like rosemary. Two liters of liquid each day is suggested.

Elevate legs

Whether you’re working at a desk, watching television, or reading, resting your legs on a bench is an old but effective method of fighting bad leg circulation. When you go to bed at night, you can place some pillows under your calves to help raise the legs higher.

Consume more fruits and veggies

There are a lot of fruits and vegetables that contain a significant amount of water and nutrients. A healthy diet can actually help reduce fluid retention and poor leg circulation. Avoid fatty foods.

Take a cold shower

You can spray some cold water on your legs before getting out of a bath. Many people have reported that it relieves pain associated with poor circulation in the legs.

Try special socks

Also called “resting socks” or “therapeutic socks,” there are various types of these socks on the market. They are thought to be a poor leg circulation treatment. They don’t compress the legs, but they do promote the flow of blood.

Reduce salt and sugar

Both sodium and glucose are not good for the circulatory system. Salt increases blood pressure and promotes fluid retention, while sugar alters insulin levels and causes weight gain, which can lead to circulation problems.

Perform massages

After having a bath, try placing a few drops of rosemary essential oil in your hands and rubbing your legs from the tip of your toes to your thighs. Elevate your legs for about a half hour afterward. Massages can stimulate nerve receptors, which can result in better blood vessel dilation and better circulation. The American Massage Therapy Association states that the oxygen capacity of blood can increase 10 to 15 percent with massaging. A massage can be a very soothing treatment for poor circulation in the legs.


This involves immersing the lower limbs in hot water to stimulate dilation of the vessels near the skin’s surface. Immediately after immersing in hot water, the legs go into cold water to get the blood vessels to close down. This pushes the blood away from the skin so you can maintain a proper body temperature. Repeating this hot/cold cycle can get blood circulating.

Before trying any poor circulation in legs treatment, you should consult with a doctor. In the case of other underlying health conditions, some of the above treatments may be discouraged.

Also read: Poor circulation treatment: How to improve blood circulation

Exercises for Poor Circulation in Legs

As we have mentioned, walking is among the best exercises for poor circulation. When someone has peripheral artery disease, it may be difficult to walk, but walking can help form new blood vessels in the legs, which can ultimately improve blood flow as well as reduce pain. The Cleveland Clinic suggests walking three to five times per week for 30 minutes.

Leg extensions are another exercise that can help with circulation. They target the quadriceps — muscles on the front of your upper leg. For leg extensions, you need ankle weights. You wrap the weights around your ankles, sit on a chair, and slowly bring your right foot up until your knee is completely straightened. Wait a second and then lower your foot back to the ground. Doing three sets of 10 repetitions on each leg can be very effective.

Hamstring curls are also a good exercise to get blood flowing. The hamstring muscles are on the back of your upper legs. To do a curl, you wrap the weights around your ankles and stand next to a table or chair for balance, then bend your right knee and slowly bring your heel up towards your buttocks. Wait for a second and then lower your foot back to the ground. Do three sets of 10 repetitions on each leg if you are comfortable enough.

Poor circulation in the legs can be a temporary nuisance or a sign of a more serious health problem. If you notice any of the symptoms we described here and they don’t seem to be subsiding, seek medical attention. In the event that you are diagnosed with poor circulation, consider the treatment options we’ve outlined in consultation with your healthcare provider. Try not to panic when symptoms first appear, circulatory issues may be startling, but are often treatable when caught early.



Simple Exercises and Yoga Poses for Blood Circulation

Poor circulation in fingers: Causes, symptoms, and treatment



Related Reading:

Poor circulation in feet: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Essential oils for circulation: 10 best oils to improve blood circulation