What are the different causes of leg pain?

Leg pain can occur as a result of various conditions
Leg pain can occur as a result of various conditions

Leg pain can occur as a result of conditions that affect the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, or skin of the leg.

Some common causes of leg pain include:

  • Peripheral artery disease: Inadequate blood supply to the leg is the main reason for peripheral artery disease. You may have numbness, weakness, or cramps in the leg when you attempt to walk. Painkillers and medicines that increase the blood flow to legs can relieve the pain, but surgery may be recommended in some cases.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): A blood clot in the lower limb vein is called DVT. It may be manifested by redness, pain, swelling, and warmth in the legs. Clots may burst and travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be life-threatening. The physician might prescribe blood thinners to prevent clot formation.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: It is a condition where the nerves that are connected to the blood vessel and muscles are damaged. Diabetes, certain health conditions, medicines, injuries, and infections can contribute to peripheral neuropathy. It can cause tingliness, numbness and weakness, and stabbing pain in the legs.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: Excessive loss of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and calcium may cause cramps, weakness, or numbness in the legs. Taking electrolyte-rich drinks may help to restore the lost electrolytes.
  • Spinal stenosis: The spaces on the inner side of the bone of the spinal cord narrow, putting pressure on the nerves of that area leading to tingliness, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Abnormal walking patterns may also be seen, which can be eased with medication.
  • Sciatica: The nerves in the lower spine get pinched, causing leg pain that can range from bad cramps to a strong shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand or sit. The physician may prescribe painkillers or physical therapy. Surgery may be reserved for a more serious case.
  • Arthritis: It is the most common condition affecting the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling. Arthritis can restrain your everyday activities when affecting the hips, knees, or ankles. Painkillers are the first-line treatment for arthritis.
  • Pulled muscle: Intense leg pain occurs when the muscle gets stretched extensively. Applying cold-packs for 20 minutes a day, wrapping it with a bandage, or taking painkillers can relieve the ache.
  • Sprain: Stretching or tearing of the ligament can cause a sprain, leading to swelling and pain. Resting, applying ice, compression, and elevation can ease the swelling and pain.
  • Muscle cramp: Tightening of the muscle in the calf leads to muscle cramps, which is manifested by sharp pain and the feeling of a hard lump of muscle under the skin. They usually do not require any treatment and go away on their own.
  • Stress fracture: Overuse of muscles around the shinbone can cause a stress fracture, which may not go away with splints. Resting for six to eight weeks is the best way to heal the bones completely. 
  • Tendinitis: It is the inflammation of the tendon that attaches the muscle to bone, causing severe pain and swelling. Resting, applying ice, compression, and elevation can ease the swelling and pain.
  • Varicose veins: In this condition, the veins need to work extra hard to get blood back to the heart making them look bulgy and twisted. Being overweight or pregnant may cause varicose veins, which can be relieved by exercising or wearing compression stockings.

Some other causes of leg pain include medications (diuretics and statins) and bone tumors.

When to contact a physician?

Call your physician, if you observe these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Worsening pain when you walk or exercise
  • Blue or black legs
  • Cold and pale legs
  • Severe pain

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Medically Reviewed on 9/3/2020
References
https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/ss/slideshow-leg-pain-causes

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003182.htm