What is leg pain?
Leg pain is a condition that is characterised by painful sensation in legs, feet, ankles, knees, toes, buttocks and/or lower back. The intensity of pain can vary from sharp, dull, burning, radiating, numbing, or tingling. Leg pain can be caused by multiple conditions. These conditions can be musculoskeletal, vascular or neurological.
Leg pain may likewise be mild and keep going for a couple of minutes. Then again, it can likewise be extreme and keep going for a considerable length of time. The pain is identified with injury of soft tissues, for example, a paper cut or a sprained ankle. By and large, leg pain does not keep going long and diminishes slowly as and when the injured tissue gets healed.
What are the signs and symptoms of leg pain?
Depending on the underlying cause, signs and symptoms of leg pain may include:
What causes leg pain?
A number of conditions can lead to leg pain. Some of the most common causes are:
- Pulled Muscle: This condition occurs when a muscle in the legs gets stretched too far. It leads to severe and intense pain. People who play sports or workout are more at risk of a pulled muscle. Ice pack and OTC medication can help relieve pain caused by a pulled muscle.
- Sprain: A sprain occurs when a ligament, a tissue that attaches bones, gets torn or stretched. The injury usually occurs in the ankle. The pain is usually very intense and makes it difficult to move the injured area. RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method is one of the common treatments for a sprain.
- Muscle Cramp: Also known as Charley horse, muscle cramps are episodes of intense pain that affects a calf muscle at the back of the lower leg. Muscle cramp causes a spasm and tightens the affected muscle. It is usually caused by dehydration and generally resolves on its own.
- Shin Splints: This is an injury that is caused when the muscles along the inner edge of the shinbone get inflamed. This condition usually affects individuals who run a lot. However, it can also result from factors such as flat feet or use of the wrong type of shoes.
- Tendinitis: Tendinitis is a condition that is caused by inflammation in the tendons, a connective flexible tissue that attaches muscles to bone. It is mostly caused by overuse of calf muscle that results in wear-and-tear injury. The pain is usually experienced near the lower calf muscle or heel bone.
- Electrolyte Imbalance: Excessive sweating can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and calcium) in the body. This can result in pain, weakness or cramps in the legs.
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): This condition can restrict the flow of blood to the legs. PAD hardens and narrows the arteries which reduce the flow of blood to the legs. This results in pain while walking, climbing and other such activities involving the use of legs. People with type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity are at a greater risk of PAD.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): DVT is a condition in which a blood clot (semi-solid or solid clump of blood) forms in a vein, usually in the thigh or lower leg. The condition restricts the flow of blood to the leg and causes pain and swelling. DVT can also lead to pulmonary embolism, a serious medical condition in which the blood clot enters an artery to the lungs and blocks the flow of blood to it. Long periods of inactivity, obesity and smoking are major risk factors for DVT.
- Peripheral Neuropathy: This is a condition in which the nerves of the body get damaged mostly due to diabetes. It leads to pain and numbness in the legs. Some people with this condition may also experience prickly or tingly sensations in the nerves of the legs.
- Spinal Stenosis: The condition occurs when the spaces within the spinal bones get narrowed. It leads to pressure on the nerves and may lead to pain, numbness and weakness in the legs.
- Sciatica: This condition occurs when a herniated disc puts pressure (or 'pinches') on a nerve or nerve root in the lower spine. It usually causes a shooting pain that can even make it difficult to stand or walk.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a condition that is associated with inflammation and swelling in the joints. It is a common condition that can affect the joints of knees, ankles or hips. The pain and stiffness caused by arthritis can make it difficult to perform simple tasks involving the use of legs. There is no cure for arthritis, however, ice or heat compression and OTC pain relief medication can help in long term management of this condition.
- Varicose Veins: The condition is characterised by the appearance of knotted and enlarged veins. Varicose veins are formed when the veins have to work harder than usual to send the blood back to heart. It is usually caused by incompetent valves. Varicose veins cause dull pain and may make the legs feel heavier.
How leg pain is diagnosed?
The diagnosis of leg pain may involve the following:
- Physical test: A physician may check for:
- Swelling in the legs or feet
- Skin changes in the legs
- Response to stimuli by pressing toes or calves
- Joint reflexes by tapping areas around knee or ankle
- Medical history: The physician may also ask certain questions related to:
- Symptoms, nature and duration of pain
- Known triggers for pain
- Existing or previous medical conditions
- History of medical treatments
- History of injuries
- Medical imaging tests: A doctor may ask you to undergo imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan, X-ray or ultrasound to diagnose the leg pain. The tests are useful in identifying bone fractures, herniated discs, tumours etc.
How leg pain is treated?
In spite of prevalent thinking, a man experiencing leg pain should proceed with his physical exercises rather than simply hiding out and taking rest. This will make him more grounded and furthermore will diminish pain.
- Exercise based therapy: Exercise based therapy includes following up on those muscles from where the pain is exuding. A person will understand which muscles need to be strengthened or stretched to recuperate from the injury.
- Occupational treatment: A specialist may provide guidance related to occupational treatment which implies that a person is able to do particular tasks without enduring too much pain. Connecting with a counselor for support and advice can be useful if the pain is too much to deal with.
- Massage therapy: It provides pressure on the muscles and thereby eases the pain. It is to be remembered, nonetheless, that this technique isn't a genuine cure for leg pain.
- Meditation and deep breathing strategies: They can give alleviation from leg pain.
What are the complications of leg pain?
- Nerve diseases like:
- Chronic disorders like:
Thus it is of paramount importance to visit a doctor and get the proper diagnosis. People suffering from serious diseases and experiencing pain due to that are not eligible for the treatment.
How to prevent leg pain?
While it may not be entirely possible to prevent leg pain resulting from certain medical conditions, there are a few measures that are known to help reduce the risk of leg pain caused by physical activity and other lifestyle factors. These include:
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes daily
- Avoiding or quitting smoking
- Managing cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure levels
- Reducing or avoiding intake of alcohol
- Increasing intake of foods rich in potassium such as bananas, spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, etc
Are there any side effects?
Some of the side-effects of acupuncture for leg pain relief are:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help to reduce pain. But some of the side-effects of using these drugs are:
Use of NSAIDs can affect:
Furthermore, some of the side-effects of analgesics are:
What are the post-treatment guidelines?
Using analgesics to relieve pain for a long period of time can cause you to get addicted to the drug. When a person is on analgesics, he/she should avoid performing tasks that require a lot of awareness like driving a car. When a person is on analgesics, he/she should not consume alcohol.
An acupuncture session makes you feel relaxed and so a person should not go for any intense workout session afterards. There are some changes in body energy and a doctor normally advises people to bring some changes in their diet and also to exercise.
How long does it take to recover?
Leg pain is generally sharp and sudden pain that generally occurs due to injury to some body tissues. Leg pain may disappear within a few moments or it can last for a few weeks as well.
Leg pain due to muscle spasms generally takes a longer period to get resolved. Pain in the lower back caused due to strain or soft-tissue injury takes about 3-6 weeks to get resolved. Pain in other areas may also last longer.
What is the price of the treatment in India?
The cost of an acupuncture session normally varies between Rs 800 and Rs 1000 in India. Some government hospitals, however, provide acupuncture therapy for as low as Rs 20 per session to the poor. NSAIDs generally cost between Rs 600 –RSs 700. Analgesic medications are available for as low as Rs 75 per 10 tablets to as high as more than Rs 1000 for 10 tablets.
How to cure leg pain permanently?
Analgesics, acupuncture and massage therapy helps to deal with leg pain. But leg pain is a sharp and sudden sensation that may occur due to a number of various reasons. A person undergoing a surgery will experience leg pain even if he had had medication and had undergone treatment for it before. An accidental cut on your body or a broken bone can also herald the onset of leg pain. Thus this sensation is never permanently cured.
How to treat leg pain at home?
Dull to moderate leg pain doesn't require medical intervention and can be treated at home. Some of the following things can be done to get relief from leg pain:
- Ensure that the affected leg gets proper rest
- Opt for an OTC pain relief medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- Wear compression socks
- Apply ice or heat compression on the affected leg
- Practice simple range of motion and stretching exercises