For many people, leg pain is a common occurrence. The impact can range from mild to severe. Since we put a lot of pressure on our legs on a daily basis, they can hurt for a wide variety of reasons, from normal wear and tear to a specific injury.
Fortunately, most leg pain can be treated once its identified. There are several different ways that the pain can manifest. Visit our leg pain specialists in Katy, TX, and we’ll take a deeper look at the symptoms and causes of this familiar ailment.
What are Common Leg Pain Symptoms?
Leg pain generally falls into one of three categories. This makes it much easier to pinpoint the exact problem so that it can be corrected. The three possibilities are:
- Musculoskeletal System: tendons, muscles, and bones.
- Neuropathic Condition: pain driven by the nervous system. The main culprit is the sciatic nerve, which runs from the butt all the way down the back of the leg.
- Pathology in the Vascular System: blood clots or narrowing of blood vessels. Usually, this occurs on one side of the body only.
When you first experience leg pain, it’s important to consult a doctor to determine which of these areas are being affected. To determine the source of the problem, your physician may look at your family and medical history as well as run various tests such as an x-ray.
It is imperative to get a comprehensive look at your legs so that you and your doctor can better understand what’s happening. Medication may be prescribed along with other treatments to help correct the issue and manage discomfort or pain.
What Conditions Cause Leg Pain?
In some cases, it can be difficult to track down the exact reason, but usually, it is related to either blunt trauma or tissue degradation.
In the instance of trauma, the muscles and tendons underneath the skin are either damaged or bruised by a direct source, such as getting kicked in the knee. Usually, trauma cases will heal on their own over time, unless the damage was severe enough to cause long-term pain.
Tissue degradation is related to normal wear and tear on the legs, mostly on the joints such as the knee or ankle. As we age, the muscles and ligaments break down and lose much of their elasticity, which means that we are more susceptible to pain. This can be further exacerbated by strenuous physical activity such as participating in sports.
With that in mind, the most common causes of leg pain are related to the musculoskeletal system. Thus, we should take a deeper look at what can happen to your bones and tissue that may cause agony and discomfort.
Musculoskeletal Leg Pain Causes
Muskoskeletal leg psin is the result of one of the following:
- Leg spasms or cramps
- Muscle sprains or strains
- Bone fractures
- Shin splints
- Hamstring injury
- Compartment syndrome
Leg Spasms or Cramps
For the most part, the term cramp and spasm are interchangeable when talking about leg pain. They are both caused by similar factors, and they are the most common ailment associated with leg pain.
A spasm is characterized by an involuntary contraction of the leg muscle, which is usually compounded by pain. A charley horse is a prime example of a muscle spasm.
Although this kind of pain may occur without warning, there are several factors that can contribute to them, particularly when related to chronic pain. These can include overexertion, dehydration, poor circulation, and fatigue.
Hot climates may make these conditions worse, as can failing to stretch properly before exercising. In some instances, mineral deficiencies (such as potassium or calcium) may also lead to spasms or cramps.
Medication may also result in cramps, especially when they are considered a diuretic. As fluid is expelled from the body, it creates a shortage of minerals, which leads to a host of problems, including leg pain. When muscles do not get the right nutrients, they may seize without warning.
Some examples of medication that could cause spasms or cramps include Nifedipine (for high blood pressure), Donepezil (for Alzheimer’s), and Tolcapone (for Parkinson’s). Some high cholesterol and asthma treatments may also have this effect as well.
Muscle Sprain or Strain
Unlike spasms and cramps, there is a distinct variation between a muscle strain and a sprain. Both can be caused by overexertion and stretching of tissue, resulting in a tear. A sprain can happen to both the muscle and the ligaments surrounding it, while strain is located in the muscles only.
In either case, the most common result of these injuries is swelling around the affected area. Other effectss include redness and tenderness, and theinable to use the muscle in its full capacity. For example, a sprained ankle usually forces a person to walk with a limp.
Often, the strain or sprain will heal on its own, but in rare cases, it may lead to long-term tissue damage, meaning that you may lose some control over the muscle or ligaments affected. Chronic pain may also be present in that kind of situation.
There are four primary bones located in the leg, and a break in any one of them can cause significant pain. The femur is the largest and strongest, and it is actually tougher than any other bone in your body. The rest are the tibia (shin), the fibula (lower leg), and the patella (kneecap).
For most people, it takes a major impact on the bones for them to break, but if you suffer from a disease such as osteoporosis, then you may be more susceptible to fracture because the cells are much weaker.
When categorizing these kinds of injury, there are several classifications.
- Compound Fracture: when the bone breaks through the skin
- Incomplete Fracture: part of the bone is still intact
- Complete Fracture: the bone has been broken into two pieces
- Displaced: when a full split has resulted in misalignment of the two parts
- Comminuted: the bone has shattered into smaller pieces
In any event, a fracture creates significant pain, followed by swelling and the inability to move the leg effectively. If you suffer from a break, a doctor will perform an x-ray to survey the extent of the damage as well as ensure that your bones are realigned so that it can heal properly.
If bones are not set correctly before being put into a cast, it could lead to significant long-term damage. If you experience a comminuted fracture, then you will most likely have to get surgery to remove the pieces and install a metal replacement.
This kind of leg pain is mostly experienced by athletes; however, anyone who is physically active may be at risk for developing this condition.
Shin splints are characterized by swelling and inflammation around the tibia, and it may be referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome. The muscles and surrounding tissues are overused, causingstrain. Over time, they cannot heal themselves correctly, so the whole area starts to get inflamed.
Usually, it will take at least two to four weeks of rest and inactivity to recover from shin splints. Pain medication may be prescribed to manage the symptoms and the level of discomfort. Even with that kind of treatment, however, it may take several months for the area to heal completely, so sufferers must reduce physical activity until healed.
This condition is most common in older people, but it can affect almost anyone. It is characterized by pain and inflammation in the joints, caused by an abundance of natural enzymes found in the body.
There are several primary types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and tendonitis. Each of these can be found in the legs and can create a lot of discomfort.
Since the joints are most susceptible, the knee is usually where arthritis strikes. If engaged in a lot of physical activities where you have to bend your knees, this will exacerbate the problem and could lead to symptoms much sooner than you might expect.
Typically, arthritis is a chronic condition, meaning that it doesn’t go away on its own. It can be treated and managed with medication and supplements, but it is something that you will have to live with for the long term.