What Causes Leg Pain Symptoms
Your legs have been responsible for helping you do things in life that have brought you great joy. You’ve enjoyed walks through the neighborhood on a pretty spring day and have simply loved the freedom that walking has brought to you. But as we get older, we’re likely to experience leg pain symptoms. It’s par for the course when you consider we’ve been walking from the time we took our first steps as a tiny tot.
Leg pain is particularly common in the lower part of the legs. It’s not uncommon for aging patients to ask their doctor about the causes of their leg pain symptoms. While many things can cause pain and symptoms in legs, chances are, there’s something you can do at home to help relieve your symptoms, regardless of the cause.
What type of symptoms are associated with leg pain?
Seniors and those approaching 65 are more likely to experience leg pain. You may even feel that your leg pain is unwarranted if you haven’t been as active as you used to be. Doing the simplest tasks or activities, like showering, getting the mail, or watering the garden, can bring on your leg pain.
Because the pain is likely to go away when you rest, pain may prevent you from doing the activities you want to do. Unfortunately, the result is that you’re likely to become less active. And, that’s no fun at all.
Pain can be experienced in different ways. For instance, the pain in your legs can be a throbbing or burning sensation.
Or, you might have a deep ache in your leg. Perhaps your legs cramp or feel like a charley horse. You could have constant pain in an area of your legs. You may also feel weakness in your legs.
You could have pain in only one leg or both, or just a small part of a leg. You might feel the pain in your foot, knee, ankle, thigh, or the back of your leg. Your pain could be worse when you’re active or worse at night when you lay down.
The exact type and pattern of pain will depend on what’s causing the problem. If you experience leg pain, talk to your physician so that he or she can figure out what’s causing your leg symptoms. Then you’ll be able to find relief for your pain.
What are the Causes of Leg Pain?
Your legs have muscles, bones, blood vessels, and connective tissue running through them. You need your legs for nearly everything that requires motion in your body. Even when standing still, you couldn’t do it without your legs.
Your leg pain symptoms can be the result of illness, injury, or simple wear and tear. Of the three, wear and tear account for most leg pain and discomfort. Poor circulation is another major cause of symptoms in the legs.
Let’s look at some of the more common reasons people suffer from leg pain.
Overuse and Wear and Tear
Think about how many miles you’ve put on your legs. They’ve carried you around for your whole life. The older we get, the more wear and tear our bodies have undergone.
The Mayo Clinic says that overuse and wear and tear are some of the top reasons we experience pain symptoms in our legs.
This wear and tear, or overuse of your muscles, ligaments, and bones, can break down the cartilage in your joints. This can cause any number of problems, including osteoarthritis, tendonitis, or an irritated nerve. There are many other overuse injuries not listed here.
Overuse and wear and tear pain are typically chronic and can wax and wane. It may come on gradually and get worse with time.
If you have pain resulting from an injury, the pain could be due to a soft tissue injury in your muscles, tendons, or ligaments. An injury in your lower spine can even cause pain to radiate down in your leg.
Whether you have an injury somewhere in your leg or foot or in your back or hip, the whole leg can experience some degree of discomfort or pain. These can limit the motion of the affected leg. This can result in a lack of good circulating oxygen and nutrients, which can slow down the healing of the leg.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that one in four adults 65 years and older experiences a fall each year. Some of the more common leg injuries are sprains, strains, dislocated joints, and fractures.
It doesn’t take much to experience pain due to an injury. The slightest slip, fall, or twist can cause an injury that results in leg pain.
Blood Vessel Problems or Poor Circulation
Unfortunately, blood vessel issues become more common as you age. As we get older, we have more problems with poor circulation, particularly in our legs.
Poor circulation and blood vessel problems can restrict the blood flow to your legs. Some of the causes of leg pain from blood vessel diseases can be quite serious.
The two major blood vessel problems are peripheral artery disease (PAD) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Peripheral artery disease: PAD can decrease blood supply to your legs and cause the narrowing of your arteries. This means that your legs don’t have well-circulating blood. If you have PAD, you’re more likely to have pain when you’re active. This is because blood isn’t reaching your muscles as it should. If you rest, the pain is likely to go away. However, just because the pain goes away doesn’t mean there isn’t still a problem. It’s instrumental that your legs always get proper blood supply. PAD is more likely in smokers, overweight people, and anyone who has had high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Deep vein thrombosis: Essentially, DVT is a blood clot deep within your vein. It’s more likely to happen when you’ve been inactive, and your blood isn’t circulating well in your legs. The pain may come on gradually or suddenly if you get a blood clot in your leg. Also, your leg could turn blue near where the clot is. DVT is a serious condition. The clot could potentially break and make its way into your lungs. If you suspect that you could have pain related to a blood clot, it’s vital to see your doctor or go to the ER immediately.
- Varicose veins: Varicose veins are often a more superficial problem with the blood vessels in your leg. Nonetheless, they can cause a great deal of leg pain and discomfort. The blood vessels in your legs can also swell and twist. With varicose veins, you can usually see blood vessels through the skin. Varicose vein pain symptoms can be felt as cramping or aching in your legs. Your legs might also feel heavy, throb, burn, or tingle.
Medication Side Effects and Leg Cramps
The older we get, the more medications we tend to take. The National Institute of Health points out that some of these medications can affect the levels of electrolytes, like potassium, in your body. This can result in leg pain symptoms and cramps. For instance, one of the more common drugs doctors prescribe for older people is diuretics. Diuretics remove excess fluid in the body. In doing so, the drugs also can remove essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. This can result in leg cramps and pain. Other medications such as steroids and cholesterol medications are also known for causing leg pain that is more likely to be experienced as a cramp or a charley horse. The pain is more likely to happen at night when you lay down to go to sleep, although it can strike anytime.
Common Illnesses That Result in Leg Pain
If you have diabetes, an electrolyte imbalance, thyroid illness, kidney disease, infection, or arthritis, you may have pain in your legs.
Diabetes can result in leg pain in multiple ways. Diabetics often have a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, which damages the nerves in your legs. If you’ve had high sugar levels for a long time, you’re more likely to have diabetic neuropathy.
A condition called hypothyroidism is a common thyroid condition that can result in painful and stiff joints and muscles. Hypothyroidism causes a slowing down of metabolism in your body. So, it makes sense that your blood will circulate slower and hinder proper functioning in your body.
People who have kidney disease are also likely to have leg pain because your kidneys are less likely to remove the extra fluid that results from your condition. This causes many areas of your body to swell, including your legs.
Any infection in your leg is also likely to cause pain because pain is a common response to infection.
Finally, a hallmark of arthritis is a pain in your joints. The tissues in your bones and joints are damaged with arthritis. Inflammation is also common and irritates nearby nerve signals. You might also feel as though your bones are rubbing together.
Only your doctor can make a diagnosis regarding the cause of your leg pain. From there, he or she can recommend a course of action to treat your condition, which can perhaps reduce your leg pain symptoms.
Finding relief for your leg pain
The first step finding some relief for your leg pain is contacting your doctor. Some types of leg pain can be due to something serious. Your doctor is best qualified to decide what’s causing your leg pain.
Your physician will examine you and ask questions about your medical history. He or she will also ask questions specific to your pain to pin down a cause. Your doctor may ask:
- Does the pain happen more when you are active or at rest?
- Would you describe the pain as a throbbing, aching, burning, or cramping pain? The type of pain you describe to your doctor will allow he or she to determine if your pain is due to a medical condition or an inactive lifestyle.
- What part of the leg or foot is experiencing the pain?
- Do you have other symptoms such as tingling or numbness?
- Have you had any swelling accompanying the pain?
- How long have you had the pain?
- Do you have pain in other parts of your body?
- How has the pain affected you? Is it preventing you from doing things you were doing before you started having the pain?
Your doctor will be able to determine what’s causing your pain, based on an examination, testing, and the answers to the questions asked. Once your doctor diagnoses the cause of your leg pain, follow their advice in treating the condition responsible for your pain.
Self-Help Measures to Minimize Your Leg Pain
Patients today want to do whatever they can to find relief for their leg symptoms, particularly where pain is involved. Most people want to avoid pain medication wherever possible and instead would rather look to more natural remedies for their suffering.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations in treating the cause of your leg pain. While your doctor’s treatment will focus on treating the condition itself, there may be some things you can do to minimize your leg symptoms and find relief. Before undertaking any self-help measures, however, check with your physician to make sure it’s okay.
For instance, if your pain is due to medication side effects, sometimes drinking plenty of extra water each day can help. Hydration is a key factor to helping with pain.
Ask your doctor if improving the blood circulation in your legs can help minimize your leg pain. Drug-free products that can stimulate your muscles to help increase blood flow in your legs and feet may also be very effective. These products can also be valuable from a preventative standpoint.
Improving poor blood circulation involves drawing more oxygenated blood into your feet and legs. Not only can this relieve pain in many cases, but it can also help you get more use out of your muscles and improve your endurance.
No matter what’s causing your leg pain, you want to feel your best and be in your best health for years to come.
You should never have to live with leg pain symptoms. Quality of life is important for your mental and physical well-being..
It’s important to discover the causes of your leg pain. Any symptoms associated with pain in your legs can lead you to live a less active lifestyle. If you’re too sedentary, this can affect your whole body and reduce the healthy blood flow your body needs.
Follow the advice of your physician to treat any root cause of leg pain. In the meantime, ask them about self-help measures you can take to find relief for your leg pain. When leg pain symptoms are at their minimum, you will function at your best and live the best life you can.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We believe in helping people to make informed decisions about their health. We hope to empower you to ask your physician the right questions so you can both agree on a treatment plan that’s right for you.
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