Common causes of leg pain
Pain or discomfort anywhere in the leg can range from a dull ache to an intense stabbing sensation. Most leg pain occurs due to overuse or minor injuries. The discomfort often disappears within a short time and can be eased with home remedies.
In some cases, however, a serious medical condition may be causing the pain. See your doctor if you’re experiencing severe or persistent leg pain. Getting a prompt diagnosis and treatment for any underlying conditions may prevent the pain from getting worse and improve your long-term outlook.
Some of the more common causes of leg pain are minor or temporary conditions that your doctor can treat effectively.
A primary cause of leg pain is a muscle cramp or spasm that’s often known as “a charley horse.” A cramp usually triggers sudden, sharp pain as the leg muscles contract. The tightening muscles often form a visible, hard lump beneath the skin. There may be some redness and swelling in the surrounding area.
Muscle fatigue and dehydration may lead to leg cramps, especially in the calf. Certain medications, including diuretics and statins, may also cause leg cramps in some people.
Leg pain is also frequently a sign of injury, such as the following:
Muscle strain is a common injury that happens when the muscle fibers tear as a result of overstretching. It often occurs in the larger muscles, such as the hamstrings, calves, or quadriceps.
Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon. Tendons are thick cords that join the muscles to bone. When they become inflamed, it can be difficult to move the affected joint. Tendinitis often affects tendons in the hamstrings or near the heel bone.
Knee bursitis happens when the fluid-filled sacs, or bursa, surrounding the knee joint become inflamed.
Shin splints cause pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, or tibia. The injury can occur when the muscles around the shinbone tear as a result of overuse.
Stress fractures are tiny breaks in the leg bones, particularly those in the shinbone.
Certain medical conditions commonly lead to leg pain. These include:
Atherosclerosis is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. When there’s a blockage, it reduces blood flow to various parts of your body. If the tissues in the leg don’t receive enough oxygen, it can result in leg pain, particularly in the calves.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside the body. A blood clot is a clump of blood that’s in a solid state. DVTs typically form in the lower leg after long periods of bed rest, causing swelling and cramping pain.
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. The condition may cause swelling, pain, and redness in the affected area. It often affects joints in the knees and hips.
Gout is a form of arthritis that can occur when too much uric acid builds up in the body. It usually causes pain, swelling, and redness in the feet and lower part of the legs.
Varicose veins are knotted and enlarged veins that form when the veins overfill with blood due to incompetent valves. They usually appear swollen or raised and can be painful. They most often occur in the calves and ankles.
Infection in the bone or tissues of the leg can cause swelling, redness, or pain in the affected area.
Nerve damage in the leg may cause numbness, pain, or tingling. It often occurs in the feet and lower part of the legs as a result of diabetes.
Other causes of leg pain
The following conditions and injuries can also lead to leg pain, but they’re less common causes:
A slipped (herniated) disk occurs when one of the rubbery disks in between the vertebrate slips out of place. The disk can compress nerves in the spine. This may trigger pain that travels from your spine to your arms and legs.
Osgood-Schlatter disease occurs when the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone becomes strained. It pulls on the cartilage of tibia where it attaches to the bone. It causes a painful lump to form below the knee, resulting in tenderness and swelling around the knee. It primarily occurs in adolescents experiencing growth spurts during puberty.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs due to an interruption of the blood supply to the ball of the hip joint. The lack of blood supply severely damages the bone and can deform it permanently. These abnormalities often result in pain, especially around the hip, thigh, or knee. This primarily occurs during adolescence.
Slipped capital femoral epiphysis is a separation of the ball of the hip joint from the thighbone, causing hip pain. The condition only occurs in children, particularly those who are overweight.
Noncancerous, or benign, tumors can also develop in the thighbone or shinbone.
Malignant, or cancerous, bone tumors may form in the larger leg bones, such as the thighbone or shinbone.