Contributed by: Dr. Dhrity Vats
Legs are one part of your body which bear the brunt of your whole-body weight. The mobility is achieved because of the strength in your legs. But if you complain of any kind of pain in the leg, it should be a symptom which should not be ignored. Your lifestyle would be compromised if the pain in legs make you alter the lifestyle.
Leg pain is a common problem, experienced by people of all ages. Pain can range from a dull ache to severe stabbing sensations. It can occur in one or both legs. 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.
Some leg pain may be simply uncomfortable and annoying, whereas severe pain can affect your mobility or make it difficult to put weight on your leg. Other symptoms may include weakness, numbness or a tingling sensation.
There are various causes of leg pain. Most commonly, pain is due to a cramp, muscle spasm, muscle fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration or standing for a long time.
Other causes, such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD) tend to build up over time. Although the person may be able to pinpoint the onset of pain, some sports injuries build up over time, such as repetitive strain injuries and stress fractures. Traumatic injuries can also become long-term, or chronic, problems if the individual does not rest or seek treatment.
Depending on the cause of the pain, other symptoms may accompany leg pain:
- Tingling sensation
Reasons of Leg Pain
Dull or minor pain in a leg often disappears within a few days. But if the pain has not reduced then you should consult your doctor. By analyzing your history of complain the doctor shall definitely come to a conclusion of the possibilities of pain from any of the following reasons. Getting a correct diagnosis increases the chances of receiving appropriate treatment, if necessary. Do tell the correct symptoms to the doctor for him to identify the right reason of the pain.
Sciatic nerve pain: it’s a common term used by anyone who has pain in the leg which has started radiating from the back to the thigh. Sciatica happens when pressure is put on a nerve, often in the spine, leading to pains that run down the leg from the hip to the foot.It can happen when a nerve is “pinched” in a muscle spasm or by a herniated disk. Long-term effects include strain on other parts of the body and change in the walking pattern to compensate for the pain.
Leg cramps: Leg cramps are transient episodes of pain that can last for several minutes. The muscle, usually the calf at the back of the lower leg, tightens and goes into spasm. Cramps are more common at night and in older people. It is generally due to lack of fluids or electrolytes in the body.
Diabetes: The pains which give a feeling of cramps can be due to a condition commonly seen in Diabetes known as Diabetic Neuropathy. Here the muscles which are supplied by the nerve which is damaged due to high sugar levels in blood start to cause pain and twitch often.
Overweight: The bulk of muscles known as the calf muscles are strong and help us walk. They tend to go in fatigue if the weight of the body is more. Overweight people have lots of complains of plantar fasciitis which makes the heels pain. The calf muscles experience cramps to compensate for the overload of weight which falls on them.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. It looks like a spider web so even known as spider veins. The clot may dissolve on its own, but if the person experiences dizziness and sudden shortness of breath, or if they cough up blood, emergency attention is needed.
Dehydration: Lack of water in body not only makes us lazy but makes the muscles to cramp and thus leading to leg pains. Changes in electrolytes due to lack of water or dehydration causes the legs pain. Often seen in summers and those who sweat a lot. The hotter our body gets the more pains and cramps the muscles feel.
Hamstring strain: A hamstring injury shows a sudden, sharp pain in the back of your thigh. You might also feel a “popping” or tearing sensation. Swelling and tenderness usually develop within a few hours which even hurts on a mild weight bearing.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: This generally affects the smaller joints but the initial sign could even be pain in legs without any history of any injury or ergonomic reason. Those already having Rh positive too complain of leg pains. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause joints to deform and shift out of place.
Fractures and stress fractures: A thighbone which the strongest bone in your body takes so much force to break generally happens due to a direct blow or a pathological reason like a tumor. But fractures of your shinbone the major weight-bearing bone in your lower leg is quite common and is a major reason of leg pain. These fractures are healed but can be difficult with the changing weather and activity.
Growing pains: You could not face them but might have children complaining of them. They are seen in children whose bones are growing from their end plates. Growing pains tend to affect both legs and occur at night, and may even wake a child from sleep. Although these pains are called growing pains, there’s no evidence that growth hurts.
Mineral Deficiency: Pains are often confused between bony and muscular. When the pain is in the muscle bulk of the thigh or back of leg then it could be due to mineral deficiency involving potassium, calcium, magnesium and/or sodium.
Peripheral Arterial Disease: Here the arteries supplying the muscles of the leg are thickened due to which the pain is felt in the muscles. This can be a case of medical emergency too.
Ovarian cancer: Ovarian cancer can lead to pain and swelling in the legs.
What to do when you have a leg pain?
When you have been complaining of leg pain you should not ignore it as it could definitely be an alarming sign of any of the above-mentioned points. Do consult your doctor and explain the symptoms well to him. You can try some treatment at home to get relief from the pain like:
- Do moderate exercise for your legs like mild jogging or brisk walk.
- In case of injury, apply a cold compress in the acute phase.
- Hold the toe and pull it up towards the body, while straightening the leg.
- Try stretches of hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, hip flexors.
- Try gentle massage.
- Keep your body hydrated. Drink 7-10 glasses of water a day.
- Eat lots of salads and fruits as they give you best form fiber.
- Increase your levels of sodium by adding a pinch of salt in salads if your are not hypertensive.
Our legs are the pivot of our body. They bear the whole body weight. Take care of them by taking care of yourself.