Endometriosis is a chronic condition that occurs when endometrial-like cells — the cells that grow and shed as part of your menstrual cycle — build up in places other than your uterus.

Endometriosis affects as many as 1 in 10 women in the United States. The symptoms vary widely depending on the person, but leg pain is one of the more common symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about why it happens and how to treat it.

Endometriosis-related leg pain feels different than the usual muscle cramping or soreness. You might feel a radiating and warm pain that spreads out over one or both legs.

This pain may worsen before your menstrual period starts, and the pain may become more severe as you age.

Researchers aren’t quite sure what connects endometriosis to leg pain, but they’re on the way to finding out.

A lab model study in rats with endometriosis found that the endometrial-like cells caused nerve inflammation in the areas close to the uterus. The tissue swelling triggered the rats’ nervous systems, which processed the inflammation as pain.

It’s also possible that the nerves themselves become trapped in the endometrial-like tissue.

When you’re experiencing endometriosis-related leg pain at home, there are number of things you can try to get pain relief.

Quick tips

  • Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad directly to the site of your leg pain to help ease your symptoms.
  • Lie on your side and rest. This may also help your triggered nerves relax.
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, like ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), to temporarily dull your leg pain.
  • Though it might be the last thing you want to do, try practicing yoga or going for a run to stimulate your body’s endorphins, which ease pain naturally.
  • If possible, get moving. Regular exercise has also been found to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and help your body manage endometriosis over time.

Some specific stretch sequences can target leg pain. These stretches are designed to relax the muscles around your pelvis.

Leg-to-chest stretch

To do this:

  1. Start this stretch flat on your back with both legs outstretched.
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly raise your right leg up.
  3. Bend your leg in toward your abdomen.
  4. Hug your leg to your chest, exhale, and release.
  5. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Flat frog stretch/Reclining butterfly stretch

To do this:

  1. While lying on your back, bring your feet together so that your legs make a diamond shape.
  2. With your feet still pressed together, breathe in deeply and drag your feet up toward your buttocks.
  3. Exhale and try to keep your knees pressed down toward the floor.
  4. Repeat as needed.

Much research has been focused on fish oil, processed foods, caffeine, fruits and vegetables, and red meat as possible triggers for endometriosis, but the results are mixed.

However, researchers have determined that eating a gluten-free diet can help reduce the risk of endometriosis symptoms. Also, some people find that eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help relieve endometriosis-related leg pain.

If you want to try to change your diet to manage your leg pain, focus on cutting back on inflammatory foods. This includes:

  • red meat
  • butter
  • refined flour products
  • corn oil
  • sugar
  • foods heavy on preservatives

Emphasize leafy vegetables, olive oil, and fatty fish in your daily choices. Cutting back on dairy and gluten and swapping out coffee for green tea may also help reduce inflammation in your body.

Although OTC medications may help ease endometriosis-related leg pain, they may not resolve it entirely.

It’s not typical to take prescription pain medications for endometriosis, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the question. If OTC pain relievers aren’t relieving your symptoms, talk with your doctor about your options.

They may be able to prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like:

  • celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • oxaprozin (Daypro)
  • prescription-strength ibuprofen

If you’re not trying to get pregnant, talk with your doctor about hormone therapy. They may recommend birth control pills or an intrauterine device (IUD) to help ease your endometriosis pain.

Other medications include:

  • leuprolide (Lupron)
  • GnRH agonists/antagonists
  • elagolix (Orilissa)
  • danazol (Danocrine)

If your leg pain is so severe that you’re unable to walk, or if you feel like your legs might give out, lie down and call your doctor immediately.

Having endometriosis doesn’t mean that any pain in your legs is caused by that condition. Your doctor will be able to rule out any other underlying causes.

If your leg pain is triggered by your menstrual cycle and occurs consistently every month, you should see your doctor. They may be able to recommend specific therapy strategies and lifestyle changes. They can also refer you to a physical therapist or provide hormonal treatment or other pharmaceutical options.

If your pain persists, your doctor might recommend laparoscopic surgery to remove tissue buildup to help relieve your symptoms.