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Leg Pain

Leg Pain

Causes of Leg Pain

Leg pain is a common complaint that can be the result of numerous complications ranging from minor injuries to life-threatening conditions. It can affect various parts of the leg including the knee, ankle, hip, joints, or foot, and it may be related to problems in the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, or any tissue in the leg. Most people experience leg pain from time to time without serious complications. Some causes, however, require immediate medical attention.

Muscle Cramps and Leg Injuries

Cramps or injury most commonly cause pain in the leg. Common causes of muscle cramps in the legs include dehydration, or low blood levels of potassium, calcium, sodium, or magnesium. Certain medications like diuretics and statins can also cause cramps. Muscle strain and fatigue can cause cramping as well. Common injuries include torn or strained muscles, stress fractures, inflamed tendons, and shin splints.

Medical Conditions Causing Leg Pain

Leg pain may also be caused by numerous medical conditions, some of which can be life-threatening. Minor conditions are known to cause pain include varicose veins and arthritis. More close and potential fatal sources of pain in the legs include blocked arteries, blood clots, infections in the muscle, bone, or skin, or nerve damage. Less often, pain may also be experienced as a result of tumors, cysts, certain medications, or a slipped disk in the back.

When to Seek Medical Attention

When minor injuries or strain cause pain, it may be treated at home by resting and keeping the leg elevated. Heat and over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs can also help. Pain caused by dehydration or mineral deficiencies can be treated through adequate hydration and mineral supplements. When pain is severe or does not subside, patients should seek medical attention.

Diagnosing Leg Pain

Doctors may perform numerous tests to determine the cause of leg pain. They usually complete a physical exam and collect information regarding the history of the pain. X-rays are often taken to examine the bone for fractures or other damage. When these tests are not conclusive, additional diagnostic imaging techniques such as MRI or CT scan may be used. If blockages of clots are suspected, they may be examined and removed arthroscopically.

Treatment Options

The treatments for leg pain vary depending upon the cause. Many problems can be treated through lifestyle changes or medications. Physical therapy may also be helpful for some patients. In cases of injuries or severe medical conditions, surgery may be required. When treated, most causes of leg pain are not fatal.