Lower Leg Pain: Causes and Treatments

Lower Leg Pain: Causes and Treatments

The lower parts of your legs take the brunt of your day-to-day life. You shouldn’t have to be in pain, though.

Bones, Joints, and Muscles

Muscle cramp. It can strike in your sleep or in the middle of the day. This sudden, tight, intense lower leg pain is sometimes called a “charley horse.” 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 or massage the area where your muscle has tensed up. Stretch your legs properly before you exercise, too.

Shin splints. You can feel this pain right up the front of your calf. The muscles and flesh along the edge of the shin bone become inflamed, so it hurts to walk, run, or jump. Doing activity over and over on hard surfaces can bring this on. You may also be more likely to get shin splints if you have flat feet or your feet turn outward.

Tendinitis. One of the first warning signs you have an inflamed Achilles tendonis pain in your lower calf, near the back of your heel. It’s a common injury that makes the tendon swell, stretch, or tear. You can get it from overworking the calf muscle or climbing the stairs. It might stick around for a long time, too.

Broken bones or sprains. Say you twist your ankle and get a mild sprain. Try the RICE treatment: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

For a more severe sprain or a broken bone (fracture), apply ice and see your doctor right away. You may need a cast or brace. You may also need physical therapy.

It will take time, but gradually you’ll be able to walk comfortably, again. Go slow as you gradually increase your strength and put weight on the injured leg.

Veins and Clots

Blood clot. When your blood thickens in a vein and clumps together, it can turn into a clot. One that develops in a vein deep in the body is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Most deep-vein blood clots happen in the lower leg or thigh. They’re more likely to happen if you’re inactive for long periods, like on a long flight or car ride. You’re also at risk if you’re overweight, or you smoke, or take certain medications.

There’s a chance a clot could break off into your bloodstream and travel to an artery in the lungs. If so, it could block blood flow. This is a serious condition called pulmonary embolism.

If you think you might have a blood clot, go to your doctor or emergency room right away.

Medications, support stockings, and weight loss are types of treatments to help you avoid getting clots.

Varicose veins . You might be familiar with these, because you can see them at the surface of the skin. They appear to be twisted, dark blue or purple veins, and are caused by weak valves and vein walls. They may cause a dull ache, especially after standing.

Lower-extremity peripheral arterial disease. 

This can happen when the arteries in your legs become damaged and hardened. When your arteries narrow or become blocked, your legs miss out on the blood flow they need. That can cause your lower leg to cramp and feel pain when you walk, climb stairs, or do other kinds of exercise because muscles aren’t getting enough blood.

Resting helps. But if your arteries become severely narrowed or blocked, the pain may persist, even when you rest. Also, wounds may not heal well.

You’re more likely to get this condition if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or you smoke or are obese.

Fix it with a change of lifestyle:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Exercise.

Other treatments include medications to control cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Some people need surgery to improve blood flow to the area.

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