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There are 23 possible causes of leg pain

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What Is Leg Pain?

Leg pain refers to pain or discomfort anywhere in the leg. It can range from a dull ache to an intense stabbing sensation.

There are many causes of leg pain. However, only some of these are medically serious. Minor discomfort will often disappear within a short time and can be eased or relieved with at-home treatments.

Common Causes of Leg Pain

Cramps

A principle cause of leg pain is a cramp or muscle spasm, often known as a charley horse. Muscle fatigue, dehydration, and some medications—such as diuretics and statins—can all lead to leg cramps.

Injury

Leg pain is also frequently a sign of injury, such as:

  • muscle strains
  • tendonitis (an inflamed tendon)
  • shin splints (pain in the lower front of your leg after overuse)
  • stress fractures

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions commonly lead to leg pain. These include:

  • atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot caused by long periods of bed rest)
  • arthritis
  • gout
  • varicose (spider) veins
  • the presence of infection in the bone or tissues of the leg
  • nerve damage (often as a result of conditions such as diabetes)

Other Causes of Leg Pain

The following conditions and injuries can also lead to leg pain. These conditions include:

  • slipped disk (in this case, the pain will travel from the back to the leg)
  • Osgood Schlatter’s disease (of the growth plate of the tibia in young boys)
  • malignant tumors in the bone
  • certain medications, such as corticosteroids
  • benign tumors or cysts (particularly on your tibia and thigh bone, or femur)
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (typically occurs in young boys)
  • slipped capital femoral epiphysis (typically occurs in children, in particular those who are overweight)

How Can You Ease Leg Pain at Home?

You can best treat your leg pain when you know its cause.

If you have varicose veins and believe that they are the source of your pain, try elevating the affected leg when you rest. Pantyhose with support may also provide some relief.

Other common causes of leg pain are muscle cramps or muscle fatigue after excessive physical activity. If your pain is the result of too much physical activity, first apply ice to your leg. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this should be done four times a day—or more frequently in the first few days after the pain appears. The ice can be left on for as long as 15 minutes (NIH, 2011).

Rest and elevate the affected leg as much as possible. Stretching and massage are also good at-home treatments for muscle cramps. You may want to take a non-prescription pain reliever, such as aspirin, to further ease your discomfort.

When Does Leg Pain Require Medical Attention?

One of the challenges for those who experience leg pain is deciding whether it warrants a trip to the doctor or the emergency room. Schedule a doctor’s appointment if you have:

  • worsening pain
  • swelling in both legs
  • varicose veins that are causing discomfort
  • pain upon walking
  • leg pain that persists beyond a few days

Seek out medical attention immediately if:

  • the leg is red and warm to the touch
  • you have a fever
  • the leg feels cool to the touch or appears pale
  • you are experiencing breathing difficulties in addition to swelling in both legs
  • you have a deep cut on your leg
  • you are immobile
  • you cannot place any weight on your leg
  • you sustained an injury that occurred along with a pop or grinding noise

A number of serious conditions and injuries may cause leg pain. Never ignore leg pain that does not seem to be going away, or if it is accompanied by any of the other symptoms mentioned above. Doing so could be dangerous.

For instance, a bone infection (osteomyelitis) is a serious cause of leg pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, if left untreated, this condition can cause (Mayo Clinic, 2010):

  • bone death (which may require amputation)
  • septic arthritis (inflammation of an infected joint)
  • impaired growth in children

Preventing Leg Pain

It is easiest to prevent leg pain caused by physical activity. Always take time to stretch before and after exercising. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating foods that are high in potassium—such as bananas, chicken, and lima beans—is also a good idea (Mayo Clinic, 2010).

Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control, drink only in moderation, and avoid smoking. If you have diabetes, take steps to manage your condition and work with your doctor to prevent foot pain from developing.

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Possible Causes - Listed in order from the most common to the least.

1

Sprains & Strains

Sprains and strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident. Most don't require medical attention.

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2

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease is a circulation disorder caused by plaque build-up in peripheral arteries. It typically affects the arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs, and organs located below the stomach.

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3

Charley Horse

Charley horse is another name for a muscle spasm. Charley horses can occur in virtually any muscle, but they are most common in the legs. These spasms are marked by extremely uncomfortable muscle contractions. Th...

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4

Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is a pinched nerve in the spine. It occurs when surrounding bones, cartilage, muscle, or tendons deteriorate or are injured. This results in numbness, weakness, and pain.

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5

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside your body. They typically form in the thigh or lower leg, but also can develop in other parts of the body.

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6

Multiple Sclerosis Overview

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. MS can cause varying symptoms that appear with a wide range of severity, from mild discomfort to complete disability.

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7

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal column narrows, gradually compressing the spinal cord. If the narrowing is minimal, symptoms won't occur. Too much narrowing can compress the nerves and cause problems.

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8

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins, also known as varicosis or varicosity, occur when your veins become over-filled with blood. Varicose veins are often painful and unsightly, with a bluish-purple or red coloration. Often, varicose vein...

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9

Sciatica

The sciatic nerve begins at the spinal cord, stretching through the hips and buttocks, and down each leg. When this nerve is irritated, you will experience sciatica, a painful, weak, or numb sensation in these areas.

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10

Shin Splints

Shin splints is a term used to describe pain felt along the inner edge of your shinbone. Shin splint pain concentrates in the lower leg between the knee and ankle. Your doctor may refer to the condition as medial tibia...

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11

Arterial Embolism

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An arterial embolism is a blood clot that has travelled through your arteries and become stuck. This can block or restrict blood flow. Clots generally affect the arms, legs, or feet. An "embolism" is anything tha...

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12

Pulmonary Embolism

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that affects the lungs. Typically, a blood clot travels from another area in the body before becoming lodged in one of the arteries that supply blood to the lungs. A pulmonar...

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13

Osteochondrosis

Osteochondroses, plural for osteochondrosis, are a family of disorders that directly affect the growth of bones in children and adolescents.

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14

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

During the growth spurts of adolescence, certain muscles and tendons can cause pain or discomfort. Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition connected to these growth spurts, specifically affecting the knee. Thi...

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15

Arteriosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. It is also called arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from th...

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16

Polio

Polio (also known as poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Children younger than 5 years old are more likely to contract the virus than any other group...

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17

Standing Your Ground with Flat Feet (Pes Planus)

If you have flat feet, your feet do not have a normal arch when standing, possibly causing pain when you do extensive physical activity.The condition, also referred to as pes planus or fallen arches, is normal i...

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18

Compartment Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that occurs when there is a large amount of pressure inside a muscle compartment. Compartments are the groups of muscle tissue, blood vessels, and nerves in your arms an...

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19

Hypoparathyroidism

Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition that occurs when the parathyroid glands in the neck do not produce enough parathyroid hormone (PTH). Everyone has four parathyroid glands, located near of behind the thyroid gland...

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20

Necrotizing Vasculitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Necrotizing vasculitis is the inflammation of blood vessel walls, typically small and medium-sized vessels. This inflammation can interrupt normal blood flow, resulting in damage to skin and muscle including necrosis ...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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