Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Pain in the legs can occur as a result of conditions that affect bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, or skin. Leg pain can occur in the foot, ankle, knee, behind the knee, thigh, down the back of the leg, or in any part of the leg. It can occur at night, while lying down, or while running or exercising, depending upon the cause. Depending on the cause, leg pain can occur in one leg only or in both legs. Typically, the leg pain is a result of tissue inflammation that is caused by injury or disease. Either injury or chronic disease can cause inflammation to any of the tissues of the leg and lead to leg pain. Since the leg contains a number of different structures and tissue types, a wide variety of conditions and injuries can cause leg pain.
Depending on the cause of the pain, other symptoms, like
- aching, or
- a tingling sensation, may accompany leg pain.
Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage from diabetes) is a common cause of tingling, burning, and numbness in the legs that can at times be painful. For diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, it is important to differentiate the exact type and location of any pain in the legs. Peripheral artery disease can cause claudication, or pain that occurs in the legs usually when walking or exercising. Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) can be another cause of leg pain. Pain in the knee and ankle joints of the leg is common with the arthritis conditions. The pain of sciatica (from disc disease of the spine) may radiate down the leg and is another common cause of leg pain.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
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