Home Treatments for Leg Pain and Swelling

Lots of things can cause pain and swelling in your legs. Most of the time, they might happen just because you overdid it at the gym or stayed on your feet for too long during the day. Here are some home remedies to ease your symptoms and find relief on your own.

Use the R.I.C.E. Method

R.I.C.E. is an acronym for a common routine to treat many physical problems, especially painful inflammation in your arms or legs. It’s short for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

  • Rest. If movement is painful at first, rest your legs and stay off them as much as you can until you’re able to move without pain.
  • Ice. Keep an ice pack on your legs for about 20 minutes every hour over the first 3 days after symptoms start. Avoid using heat, as it may make swelling worse.
  • Compression. Wrap an elastic bandage around your legs or wear compression stockings, which use pressure to keep swelling down.
  • Elevation. Keep your legs raised above the level of your heart for 30 minutes, three or four times per day, so that gravity can help move fluids out and toward the rest of your body.

You might also add a “P” at the beginning of the acronym, for protection (making it P.R.I.C.E.). This is important if infection, injury, or surgery is the cause of your painful swelling. In this case, the first goal is to protect against further damage by staying off your feet as much as possible until your symptoms get better. It might also mean using a brace or wrap to keep your legs from moving as much.

Take Over-the-Counter Medicines

You can find several kinds of medications at your local pharmacy or grocery store that can help your legs get some relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen may help ease swelling and pain. Acetaminophen might also fight pain.

Some doctors say magnesium is a good mineral to add to your diet to help with painful swelling. Always check with your doctor before taking any new supplements, since some could interfere with medications.

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Stay Hydrated

It might not seem logical, but drinking more water will actually help get rid of the excess water that causes swelling in your body. On the other hand, when you’re not getting enough water on a regular basis, your body will want to hold more to make up for it. Aim for 8 ounces every 2 hours. Also try to limit the amount of salt and carbohydrates you eat during the day.

Take a Salt Bath

Soak your legs for 15 to 20 minutes in lukewarm water with Epsom salts, which helps relax muscles and ease swelling. If you don’t have a bathtub, try to find a bucket big enough to fit at least one leg at a time, with the water covering your legs up to your knees.

Try Massage

If you can’t visit a massage therapist and don’t have any tools, you can still do massage on your own at home. Rub or stroke your legs upward, in the direction of your heart. Make sure the pressure is firm but not painful. This can help move excess fluid out of that area.

Get Moving

Sitting or standing in one place for too long can make painful swelling worse. Get up and stretch as often you can during the day. Focus on extending your knees as well as flexing your ankles to help with blood circulation. This may help pump extra fluid away from your legs and back toward your heart. If you have joint problems, try swimming; this exercise lets your body move without having to bear weight and can also soothe your skin.

When Sitting and Sleeping

These tips will help with leg pain and swelling whenever you have to lie down or stay seated for long periods of time, such as when you’re sleeping, traveling, or working at a desk:

  • Don’t wear tight clothing, especially around your thighs.
  • Wear compression stockings that are approved by your doctor.
  • Take a break to walk around at least once every hour.
  • When you’re sitting or lying down, try to keep your feet up off the floor.
  • Put phone books or bricks under the feet of your bed to lift it, or put a pillow beneath your legs to keep them raised above your heart at night.

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When to See Your Doctor

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to get medical help or have a specialist check your leg pain and swelling. In general, if your symptoms start severely, suddenly, more often than usual, or for no clear reason, they may be signs of something more serious. Call your doctor or schedule an appointment with them.

You may also need medical care if you:

  • Have a fever of 100.4 F or higher
  • Develop blisters, sores, or cuts on your legs
  • Feel weak or dizzy, or get shaking chills or drenching sweats
  • Have swelling in only one leg, especially if the skin is cool or pale
  • Have leg pain, swelling, warmth, or redness that keeps getting worse
  • Have symptoms that don't get better after a few days of home treatment

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on February 01, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Edema,” “Leg Pain,” “Leg Swelling.”

Cleveland Clinic: “6 Best Fixes for Pain and Swelling in Your Feet and Ankles.”

Fairview Health Services: “Leg Swelling in a Single Leg.”

Nationwide Children's Hospital: "Swelling: The Body's Reaction to Injury."

UPMC HealthBeat: “How to Use the R.I.C.E. Method for Treating Injuries.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Edema (swelling) (Beyond the Basics).”

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