Leg pain is a common symptom that occurs frequently, and we do not pay much attention to. legs bear most of our weight for a good part of the day, and it is natural to assume that we are ‘just tired, that is all’. However, pain in the leg, calf or thigh can be a sign of underlying disease; if it persists beyond a few days, it is worth it to have it checked. In this article we will address the reasons behind such pain.
The common term for muscle cramp is ‘ charley horse’. Muscle cramps in the thigh or calf are one of the most annoying pains in the lower half of the body. They come on suddenly, and are a tightening sensation which may be associated with varying degrees of pain. When it takes a grip, it can get worse quickly. It happens when your muscles are tired or dehydrated. Drink more water if you’re prone to leg cramps. It might help to gently stretch the area where your muscle has tensed up. Stretch your legs properly before you exercise, too. Muscle cramps in the legs are very common in pregnancy.
Shin split is exercise induced pain in the front lower legs, which usually occurs after high intensity exercise, such as jumping and running, especially on hard surfaces. Rest, ice pack and pain medication will help this pain go away. Also try and avoid playing or exercising on hard surfaces.
Inflammation of a muscle or tendon may be cause by overusing the muscle (over working the particular area) or high intensity use of a particular muscle or tendon which may cause injury. Pain of this kind originates in one place and usually travels upwards the length of the muscle or the tendon. It is common to have tendon or muscle pain originate in the heel. For such kind of inflammation, rest, ice pack and pain medication will be of most help. To avoid these injuries, always warm up before exercise. If the pain does not resolve in a few days, it is best to see your GP, as there is always a chance of rupture of the tendon with these injuries.
Fracture is the medical term for a broken bone. It may be caused by sudden exposure of the bone to increased force. Fractures are common in both extremities of age, due to fragility of bones. Medical advice should be sought right away as a majority of fractures need to be put in a cast for the bone to heal and align.
Weak valves in the veins can cause twisted dark blue and purple vein near the surface of the skin. These are very common in women, and may aggravate during pregnancy. Varicose veins cause a dull ache that is persistent. Support stockings and gentle massage can be very helpful in patients with varicose veins. Also avoid standing for long periods of time.
With diabetes, nerves can be damaged throughout the body, but especially in the lower extremities. Uncontrolled high blood sugars damage the nerves, which in turn reduces sensations all over the body, especially in the legs and feet. Along with decreased sensation, pain may also be present. many times, symptoms of diabetic neuropathy manifest as ‘pins and needles’. Good control of blood sugar through diet and medication is recommended for return of normal nerve function.
Growing pains are aching, cramping pains that young children experience in both legs. This kind of pain has a tendency to surface later in the day, towards the evening. Some times it may also wake a child in the middle of the night. They occur usually in 2 age groups: from the age 3 years to 5 years, and then again in preteens, from 10 years to 12 years. These are usually pains that occur from strenuous physical activity, as is the norm for active children. Contrary to popular belief, they do not occur due to growth spurts. There is no specific medication for growing pains. Rather, they should be treated by less physical exertion and massaging the affected leg. Over the counter medications are good for pain control if it is severely impeding daily life or sleep.
Pain is one leg is not growing pain, and you should consult your GP for it.