What conditions cause leg pain? What conditions don’t cause leg pain? The legs support the body undergirding its weight, so it’s understandable that wear and tear and constant overuse would cause pain in the legs. However, there are many other causes that attribute to leg pain.
Any condition that affects the makeup of the legs can cause pain. Tendons, blood vessels, muscles, joints, nerves, etc., running through the legs are all parts that can be attacked by a number of disorders or conditions that cause chronic pain in one or both legs. The pain may exhibit as throbbing or burning, aching tremors or a numbing or tingling sensation, cramping or weakness in the legs. These are the symptoms, but there are multiple causes. A few possible reasons for leg pain follow.
When a blood clot develops in a major vein in the leg it is defined as a deep venous thrombosis (DVT). The clot is formed in a deep vein and blocks the circulation, blocking the blood from making its way back to the heart. A person experiencing deep venous thrombosis will notice the outer part of the affected leg is warm to the touch and is accompanied by acute pain and swelling in the leg. Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 900,000 people in the United States experience leg pain associated with DVT. Unfortunately, as many 100,000 Americans die as a result.
The condition can be diagnosed and treated with blood thinners prescribed by your doctor. The anticoagulation medication will break down the clot and will also lessen the risk that new clots will form; many people take these medications before embarking on long road trips or flights. In some severe cases, surgery is required.
Nerve Causing Leg Pain
The sciatic nerve runs down each leg from the lower spine, passing through the pelvis and is the widest, not to mention the longest nerve that runs through the body. Pain from the sciatic nerve can be located in the hip, buttocks and run down the back of the legs.
When nerve roots are disturbed, pain is the result. A herniated disc, for example, will place pressure on nerves and exacerbate sciatic pain.
Nerve problems can also come in the form of night (or nocturnal) leg cramps or charlie horses, characterized by involuntary, painful muscle spasms often occur while lying down. Though night leg cramps are usually centered in the calf muscles, the thigh or foot muscles may also be affected.
Another form of nerve-caused leg pain is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a chronic condition that appears after injury or trauma. CRPS is believed to be related to damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems and can cause lasting pain and discomfort.
This is obvious, but a leg fracture is terribly painful. There are three bones in the leg, and like other bones in the body, they are susceptible to fractures. The femur is located in the upper leg (thigh bone) the smaller fibula and tibias are located in the lower leg. The femur, being the largest of the three bones, is the toughest to break, but heavy trauma will fracture the femur. Regardless of how the bone breaks, it is painful and requires medical attention.
The larger bone in the lower leg is the tibia. Similar to the femur, the shinbone can be fractured by high impact trauma. However, the tibia is the bone that is the most likely to break, and the most common in the body that is fractured. Unfortunately, in the majority of persons who experience broken tibias, a broken fibula also accompanies the fracture.
IT Band Syndrome and Tendinitis
Tendinitis is irritation or inflammation of the tendons, which are the thick bands that connect muscles to bones throughout the body. One common form of tendonitis is Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, which causes tightness and pain in the outside of the hip, leg, and knee. Pain can develop when the tendon tightens and rubs against the femur.
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury that occurs when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles from the heel bone to the back of the leg, becomes strained. Achilles tendinitis pain can range from mild to severe and can be aggravated by activities like long runs, sprinting, or climbing stairs.
Sometimes, the Achilles tendon actually ruptures, either partially or completely. The associated pain is sudden and sharp and is felt in the back of the ankle and the lower leg.
Shin Splints and Stress Fractures
The primary area where painful shin splints occur is the medial area on the inside part of the leg. Running and jogging causes stress and runners leading with a dominant foot when feet are ill-aligned will experience an imbalance between the muscles in the back part of the leg (calf muscles) and front of the leg. Shin splints are due to overactivity, too much exercise and overwork. Pains in the knee or the front of the leg are often signs of shin splints. If not attended to, a shin splint can develop into a stress fracture.
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