7 Most Common Causes of Lower Leg Pain

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No matter how old you are, there is no escaping from lower leg pain. It can be caused due to injury or diseases. You are jogging or finishing a regular chore when suddenly you may feel a searing pain in your lower leg region or your calf muscle.

Owing to the amount of day-to-day brunt it takes, your lower leg is bound to succumb to various injuries and one reason for the excruciating pain is the sort of strain that is applied on your lower leg region. In some cases, diseases also play a vital role in causing lower leg pain.

Lower Leg Pain

Before getting a suitable treatment for your pain, it is important that you first identify the root of the problem. Well, this article will point out some of the causes of lower leg pain and how this problem can get worse if left untreated.

Reasons for Lower Leg Pain

In most cases, lower leg pain can take place due to injury. It can be anything from breaks and fractures to splints and sprain. The pain that is caused can be excruciating if it is caused by other conditions such as arthritis, peripheral artery disease, or deep vein thrombosis.

Continue reading to find out how these factors cause discomforts in your legs.

1. Injury

If you recently had a fall, twisted your legs, or suffered from direct blows, then this could be the reason behind the pain in the lower part of your leg. These types of injuries may hurt your joints, muscles and bones and cause sprains, strains, fractures, breaks, shin splints.

Injured or torn ligament is sprain while tears in your tendons and muscles is a strain. You may have inflammation and swell in cases of strained and sprained legs.

Fractures cause unbearable pain because of the damaged nerve endings that are located in the tissue lining of your bone. The pain intensifies when the muscles surrounding your damaged bone go into spasm.

Shin splints can also cause a tremendous amount of lower back leg pain. This condition happens when your shinbone endures injuries caused by too much running, dancing, jumping or exercising. In addition to pain, you may see swelling in this region.

Treatment

  • A sprain is treated with ‘RICE’ – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
  • If the sprain is severe, then your doctor may suggest surgery and long-term physical therapy.
  • Fracture is generally treated surgically followed by physical therapy.
  • You can treat shin splints with resting your body, applying an ice pack, use of orthotics while walking, taking anti-inflammatory painkillers.

2. Low back pain or sciatica

This is one of the most common lower leg pain reasons. You may wonder how a problematic lower back can cause pain down your lower leg.

There are certain conditions like a herniated spinal disc, spinal stenosis, tumour or an infection that may cause tension around the spine. These conditions irritate the nerves that travel down your leg to the lower parts. This condition may make your leg painful, cramped, numb, tired, or fatigued.

Treatment

  • Exercising and stretching will help in minor cases
  • In the case of chronic lower back pain, painkillers, physical therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy would help
  • Hot and cold compression packs will help you reduce the pain

3. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

In this condition, the arteries leaving the heart are narrowed resulting in slower blood circulation to the lower parts of the leg.

While you are walking or jogging, a narrowed artery cannot supply enough oxygen to the muscles of your legs. For this reason, you may experience lower leg muscle pain that may intensify with continued physical activities.

Since this medical condition affects different blood vessels, both the legs experience pain but maybe in different intensities.

Treatment

  • Get more exercise done daily
  • Eat healthily
  • Take good care of your leg
  • Keep your other medical conditions like diabetes under check

4. Tendonitis

When you climb stairs or overwork your calf muscle, you may feel a searing pain in your lower leg muscles. You will also feel inflammation in the tendons. Tendons attach muscles to bones. So, when your muscles stretch or contract, your tendons will hurt.

In extreme cases, tendons swell to a greater extent and this weakens them. They lose their flexibility and become tender to touch.

Treatment

  • Avoid any intensive physical activities
  • To reduce the inflammation, rest your joints
  • Strap your affected area with bandages, braces or splints
  • Applying a heating pad and ice pack could help

5. Muscle cramps

This condition occurs near the calf area. When the muscles around the calf area contracts suddenly and is totally out of control, you feel excruciating pain in both legs. The pain can be anywhere from mild twitching to a sharp stabbing.

So, what causes cramps? Usually, when your muscles are fatigued and tight, they lead to painful muscle cramps. Other reasons may include dehydration and exercising in the hot summer. Patients with diabetes, fibromyalgia, blood vessel disorders, liver and thyroid disease usually suffer from cramps.

Treatment

  • Don’t continue any activity that worsens cramps
  • Gentle stretching and massages will help you
  • Consider adding Magnesium-rich food items like seeds and nuts, to your diet
  • Take a hot-water bath or apply a heating pad to the affected area
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water
  • Go for a walk to relax your muscles

6. Deep Vein Thrombosis

This condition occurs when there is a blood clot in the leg vein. It can turn into a life-threatening situation as the pain and condition may travel till your lungs. The clots can occur when the vein wall is damaged, you have undergone surgery, or due to medical conditions like cancer or pregnancy.

In addition to cramps and painful lower leg, Deep vein thrombosis will give you redness of the calf, warmth on your legs and swelling.

Treatment

  • Treatment with blood-thinning medication
  • Taking clog-busting treatments

7. Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Certain veins in your leg send blood back to the heart through valves. When these valves are damaged, some of the blood is sent back to the legs. With time, the blood pressure in the veins increases causing Chronic Venous Insufficiency.

When this occurs, you will have swelling in the lower leg parts, cramps, itchy and coloured skin, painful legs.

Veins and valves get damaged by activities or medical conditions that put pressure on the veins. It can be pregnancy, standing for a long time or overweight.

Treatment 

  • Avoid standing for a long time
  • Wear compression stockings
  • Exercise regularly
  • Elevate your legs above your heart when you are sitting

Also Read 15 Simple Exercises to Avoid Back Pain

FAQ

  1. What causes lower leg pain at night?

In the majority of the cases, people of the older age group experience pain in legs at night. It mainly happens because of sitting for a long time, sitting in a wrong posture, muscle overexertion. In many cases, the pain is also because of serious medical conditions like narrowing of arteries and spinal canal, osteoarthritis, alcoholism, and pregnancy.

  1. What vitamins are good for aching legs?

If you suffer from cramps frequently, you can intake more Vitamin E. It is available in abundance in food items like sunflower seeds, peanuts, spinach and almonds. Vitamin D is excellent in improving the strength of your bones and muscles. You can get it from fish, milk, liver and egg yolk. If you have blocked arteries, you can intake Vitamin C from citrus fruits. It will act as an antioxidant and clear out the plaque buildup.

  1. Can leg cramps be a sign of a heart attack?

Yes. Leg cramps happen when there is less blood flow to your legs. This indicates that there is a blockage in the arteries. And this, in turn, indicates there is poor blood flow in the heart. So, if you have leg pain when you are resting, you must be diagnosed with Peripheral Artery Disease.

  1. What foods heal leg cramps?

Our muscles rely on electrolytes and minerals to function properly. Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium are few to name. So, when you try food items that are rich in these elements, you can heal and avoid leg cramps. On this note, you can take advantage of foods like – cheese, celery, beetroot, smoked fish and meats, olives and sauerkraut, fruits, vegetables, dairy, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, fortified tofu, bananas, raw cocoa, dark chocolate, dried fruit and natural yoghurt.

  1. Can orthotics help foot pain?

Yes. Orthotics are great for daily walkers. They absorb the shock and impact put on your legs and help you avoid pain. Simply wear the orthotics inside your running shoes and remove them when you are done. If your leg pain persists after removing it, you must wear them with your every-day footwear.

Conclusion

Pain in the lower region of the leg is a common occurrence in people of all ages. The reasons also vary. It can be due to injury, disease, or other causes. Talking to an experienced doctor, identifying the cause and taking the right treatment is the key to healing the pain.

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