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Leg Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis & Treatments

Team AckoApr 19, 2024

Leg Pain (LP) is one of the common health concerns that people tend to ignore for a long time. Often, after a long day of work or following any exertion, having LP is normal. However, if you have it even at rest or after walking short distances, it could spell danger. Musculoskeletal causes are the most common reason for this condition at present. This has been attributed to poor lifestyle choices and sedentary work. Here’s an overview of this condition.

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Types of Leg Pain

The leg has many components such as bones, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, etc. All of these structures when affected can result in pain. Only after a careful history and examination is it possible to narrow down the cause of Leg Pain. Here are some types of LP.

1. Musculoskeletal pain

This is the most common type of LP. It can range from transient cramps to severe pain experienced after a sprain or ligament injury. Pain after a fracture is so excruciating that it is not possible to apply any weight on the affected leg.

2. Neuropathic pain

This pain is felt even at rest and could be accompanied by tingling and numbness.

3. Vascular pain

This is typically a type of pain that occurs after any kind of movement or exercise and is relieved on rest. There may also be associated changes in the colour or temperature of the skin on the leg. In some cases, ulcers may also be present.

Causes of Leg Pain

As mentioned, there are multiple structures in the leg that can be damaged resulting in pain. Each of them has some associated features that can give a hint towards the final diagnosis. The most common causes are as follows. 

1. Cramps 

Cramps are usually the result of muscle fatigue or dehydration. It feels like a sudden sharp pain along with tightening of the muscles of the calf. Most of us have experienced a leg cramp after long periods of exercise or keeping the leg in one position for a prolonged period of time.

2. Bone or soft tissue injury

The leg has many muscles, ligaments, and tendons, any one of which can be damaged because of increased stress or strain. The tendons near the heel can get inflamed resulting in a painful condition known as tendinitis. Muscle groups such as the hamstrings and quadriceps can also get injured because of overstretching.

Shin splints are another common cause of Leg Pain resulting in pain and swelling along the shin bone. It has been linked with orthopaedic problems such as flat feet.

To avoid any serious injury, it is always recommended to warm up and cool down correctly while exercising. Severe pain and swelling usually indicate an injury and need to be evaluated immediately.

3. Vascular disorders

Medical conditions that affect the blood vessels of the leg are often painful. One of the most common conditions is atherosclerosis. This is a condition in which arteries get hardened and blocked because of the collection of cholesterol and fats. In severe cases, the oxygen supply to the legs can be compromised leading to severe pain.

The veins of the legs can also be affected. Varicose veins is a condition in which veins become swollen, enlarged, and twisted. They are often visible as bluish tortuous lines on the calf. In patients who are on bed rest, deep vein thrombosis is another possibility.

There are a host of other orthopaedic conditions that can present with Leg Pain. These include Osgood-Schlatter disease or Legg Calve Perthes disease commonly seen in adolescents.

When should I consult a doctor for Leg Pain?

Mild cases of Leg Pain can be easily managed at home. However, if you have LP that is constant and prolonged, not responding to painkillers, it may be time for a visit to the doctor. 

Other reasons to visit a doctor for Leg Pain include:

  • The leg feels cool to touch or looks pale compared to normal skin

  • There is accompanying swelling

  • The pain is increasing at rest

  • The skin over the leg looks red or flushed and feels warm

  • The pain is so severe that you are unable to walk at all or support your body weight on your leg.

What is the treatment for Leg Pain?

The most common cause of Leg Pain is overuse. Follow this simple four-step routine to reduce pain and swelling in the leg after exertion.

  • Lie down and rest your legs. 

  • Raise your legs by keeping a few pillows below your legs.

  • Apply ice over your legs in case there is swelling. 

  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller such as aceclofenac or ibuprofen.

Make sure not to make a habit of taking painkillers every day as it can lead to missing out on more serious issues. 

If you are someone who has to stay active on your feet each day, here is a tip. Soak your feet in a bucket of warm water or take a warm bath at the end of the work day. Following this do a few simple stretches such as touching your toes or flexing your foot back towards your knee. These gentle stretches can help relieve pain from tight muscles. 

Leg Pain because of vascular causes most commonly requires surgical intervention. With all the advances in surgery such as laser procedures for varicose veins, this no longer requires prolonged immobilisation. Patients are back on their feet the next day (minus the pain)!

What are some ways to avoid Leg Pain?

The key to reducing Leg Pain is developing muscle strength. The bones and large muscles of the back and legs play a major role in weight bearing. Therefore, it is important to take out the time to exercise at least 5 days a week.

Make sure to warm up and cool down adequately before and after your workout. It is recommended to include a mix of cardiovascular training, strength training, and yoga or stretching in your weekly workout routine.

Ensuring that you eat a healthy diet rich in protein, fruits, and vegetables is also extremely important. All these steps can help you maintain a healthy body weight as well. It is best to avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption as well. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions related to Leg Pain.

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I have recently started getting severe Leg Pain even after walking short distances. What could be the reason?

There are many reasons for Leg Pain depending on age and other factors. Pain after walking short distances is typically linked with vascular causes, especially in smokers.

I am a teacher and I spend long hours standing. I have noticed painful bluish swelling on my legs. What should I do?

People who stand for long hours tend to develop varicose veins because of the pooling of blood in the legs. Your doctors may suggest getting a Doppler examination to check for any blocks and plan further treatment.

What is the best treatment for Leg Pain?

Rest, leg elevation, and painkillers work well for simple Leg Pain. However, if you sugar from it daily or find it extremely distressing it is best to visit a doctor who can find the specific cause and give the appropriate treatment.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions. Leg Pain is written as LP in this article for convenience.

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