Leg Pain, Achy Legs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Leg pain is any discomfort to the leg caused by either traumatic or non-traumatic activities, leading to the inflammation of tissues in the leg. This pain experienced in the leg can range from mild to severely uncomfortable, which can be sharp, dull, tingly, aching, or throbbing.
Several factors can be responsible for leg pain, including trauma injuries to the muscles and blood vessels. Injuries to spinal nerves, which transport signals from the leg to the brain, are often the primary cause of pain in the legs and can interfere with the performance of simple daily activities.
Leg pains don’t necessarily require a particular form of treatment as they may get better on their own with proper management. However, If pain persists after a few days, consult your doctor and seek emergency treatment.
What Causes Leg Pain?
Leg pain can develop gradually or suddenly, depending on the underlying condition and level of trauma experienced. Most leg pains result from overuse or injuries to the tendon, muscles, and other soft tissues in the leg.
This pain often comes with a varying level of uncomfortable sensation such as tingling, stabbing, burning, etc. Some leg pain originates from health conditions such as Arthritis, Bone cancer, Bone fracture, and Bursitis.
Leg pain can fall into four distinct forms: musculoskeletal, vascular, or neurological forms.
Musculoskeletal Leg Pain
Musculoskeletal pain is caused by trauma to tendons, ligaments, muscle tissues, and bones. This type of pain is common in aged adults ranging from 65 years and over. Arthritis, a disease-causing inflammation and stiffness of joints, back pain, and trauma, are the three most reported musculoskeletal conditions in the USA.
According to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), approximately 126.6 million Americans are debilitated by musculoskeletal pain, reducing productivity and life’s quality of life of affected people.
The cost of treating musculoskeletal disorders, according to the USBJI, is approximately $7800 per patient per year if not managed appropriately.
In addition to night cramps – other musculoskeletal disorders include osteomyelitis (bone infection), compartment syndrome, ankle sprains, and stress fractures.
Vascular Leg Pain
Vascular leg pain is caused by the buildup of clots or plaque in blood vessels, preventing the proper circulation of oxygenated blood to the legs. Common causes of vascular pain are:
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- cellulitis infections
The most common cause of vascular pain is Peripheral Artery Disease. According to the Center for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC), It affects an estimated 8.5 million people in the United States.
Neurological Leg Pain
Neurological pain may result from mild or severe trauma to either the sciatic or lumbar nerve. A prickled or numb sensation often accompanies this pain. Common causes of neurological leg pain are:
- spinal stenosis(arthritis of the spine)
- herniated disc
- narrowing of the spinal canal
- lumbar radiculopathy
An elevated blood sugar level can lead to a common diabetic complication called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy causes leg pain and reduces sensitivity in the leg.
What are the Symptoms of Leg Pain?
Symptoms of leg pain can be mistaken for signs of another undying medical condition. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience these symptoms:
- Cramping or seizing of muscles
- Redness or bruising
- Difficulty in walking
- Sores on feet
- Pale skin
- Progressive weakness and numbness of the leg
Several conditions can cause leg pain. Always seek emergency medical attention if discomfort persists in avoiding medical complications.
What is the Risk factor of Leg Pain?
The following factors can increase the risk of developing leg pain:
- Blood clotting disorder
- Nerve disorder
- Prolonged bed rest
- Alcohol abuse
- Sport activities
How to Diagnose Leg Pain
If you experience severe pain, contact your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor may order specific imaging tests such as an MRI, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computed tomography (CT) scan, Electromyography (EMG), and an Ultrasound, depending on the severity and location of the pain.
How to Treat Leg Pain
Mild cases of leg pain may resolve on their own without medical intervention. However, an over–the–counter pill may help reduce discomfort. The following medical routine may also help relieve leg pain.
- Rest your leg as specified by your doctor
- Apply a piece of bagged ice three times a day for 15-20 minutes
- You can consider proper massage therapy
- Rest leg at an elevated position when sitting
- Wear compression socks to support the affected leg
Failure to follow this routine can result in permanent nerve damage and lead to leg amputation.
If after observing all precaution measures and pain persists, consult your doctor to discuss your concerns.