Definition


Leg pain can be constant or intermittent, develop suddenly or gradually, and affect your entire leg or a localized area, such as your shin or your knee. It can take a number of forms — stabbing, sharp, dull, aching or tingling.

Some leg pain is simply annoying, but more-severe leg pain can affect your ability to walk or to bear weight on your leg.

Causes


Most leg pain results from wear and tear, overuse, or injuries in joints or bones or in muscles, ligaments, tendons or other soft tissues. Some types of leg pain can be traced to problems in your lower spine. Leg pain can also be caused by blood clots, varicose veins or poor circulation.

Some common causes of leg pain include:

  1. Achilles tendinitis
  2. Achilles tendon rupture
  3. ACL injury (tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in your knee)
  4. Ankylosing spondylitis
  5. Baker's cyst
  6. Bone cancer
  7. Broken leg
  8. Bursitis (joint inflammation)
  9. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome
  10. Claudication
  11. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (DVT)
  12. Gout (arthritis related to excess uric acid)
  13. Growing pains
  14. Growth plate fractures
  15. Hamstring injury
  16. Herniated disk
  17. Infection
  18. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis)
  19. Knee bursitis (inflammation of fluid-filled sacs in the knee joint)
  20. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  21. Meralgia paresthetica
  22. Muscle cramp
  23. Muscle strain
  24. Night leg cramps
  25. Osgood-Schlatter disease
  26. Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
  27. Osteochondritis dissecans
  28. Osteomyelitis (a bone infection)
  29. Paget's disease of bone
  30. Patellar tendinitis
  31. Patellofemoral pain syndrome
  32. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  33. Peripheral neuropathy
  34. Posterior cruciate ligament injury
  35. Pseudogout
  36. Psoriatic arthritis
  37. Reactive arthritis
  38. Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
  39. Sacroiliitis
  40. Sciatica
  41. Septic arthritis
  42. Shin splints
  43. Spinal stenosis
  44. Sprains
  45. Stress fractures
  46. Tendinitis
  47. Thrombophlebitis (a blood clot that usually occurs in the leg)
  48. Torn meniscus
  49. Varicose veins

When to see a doctor


Call for immediate medical help or go to an emergency room if you:

  • Have a leg injury with a deep cut or exposed bone or tendon
  • Are unable to walk or put weight on your leg
  • Have pain, swelling, redness or warmth in your calf
  • Hear a popping or grinding sound at the time of a leg injury

See your doctor as soon as possible if you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as redness, warmth or tenderness, or you have a fever greater than100 F (37.8 C)
  • A leg that is swollen, pale or unusually cool
  • Calf pain, particularly after prolonged sitting, such as on a long car trip or plane ride
  • Swelling in both legs along with breathing problems
  • Any serious leg symptoms that develop for no apparent reason

Schedule an office visit if:

  • You have pain during or after walking
  • You have swelling in both legs
  • Your pain gets worse
  • Your symptoms don't improve after a few days of home treatment
  • You have painful varicose veins

Self-care

Minor leg pain often responds well to home treatments. To relieve mild pain and swelling:

  • Stay off your leg as much as possible
  • Apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day
  • Elevate your leg whenever you sit or lie down
  • Try over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve)

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