In a de-oxygenated body, the limbs and extremities such as the toes are the first to feel the lack of oxygen. An oxygen dip in the leg muscles and joints can cause a variety of aches and pains, from a sharp stinging to dull, continuous cramping.
According to MedicineNet, the most common area for claudication (as poor oxygen supply is medically known) is the calf muscles, those being the furthest largest active muscles away from the heart. So if your pain is located mainly in the calf area, and you can rule out other potential causes on this list, it may be worth seeking medical consultation.
Claudication is often caused or made worse by common breathing problems such as sleep apnea—a decreased ability to intake air during sleep. This is the reason you may only experience leg ache in the morning, rather than throughout the whole day.
A lack of oxygen may also be caused by an iron deficiency (see ‘Nutrient deficiencies’).
A treatment to try: boosting circulation before bedtime
Even if you lead an active lifestyle—and especially if you don’t—you can help boost circulation in your legs by incorporating some soothing stretching or light exercise into your bedtime routine:
Too much strain on the legs during the day
Being more mindful of how much time you spend on your feet throughout the day may give you an insight into your morning leg pain. Often, leg aches track with strains due to overuse, but only arise a day or two after the activity, making the association less immediately apparent.
Those who work on their feet will know the feeling of worn legs and ankles. But even if you spend your days at a desk, consider whether you’ve recently introduced more walking or standing into your routine, such as a change to your commute or the arrival of a new standing workspace.
A treatment to try: Keep an exercise journal (or app)
Tracking your exercise is easier than ever, with a wealth of free, and premium, technology options available on most devices. Whether you’re running, cycling, or simply walking around your workplace, there’s an easy way to keep tabs on how much effort your legs are expelling. Today’s iPhones come equipped with pedometers, while popular fitness app Strava is designed to capture a range of activities.
Several nutrient deficiencies can lead to muscle aches that are often more apparent during the quiet and stillness of the morning:
A treatment to try: eat by color
Aim for a broad range of vitamins and minerals in your daily night. One easy way to ensure a good balance of nutrients is to eat by color, creating meals where each item on your plate is from a different part of the color spectrum. This is because minerals themselves track with color—orange or red suggests the presence of vitamin C and B vitamins, for example. You might also consider sourcing a good quality multivitamin.