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Leg pain: causes, treatment and prevention

Updated: December 2018

The term “leg pain” can actually include a number of problems. Pain in the legs can have a number of causes (i.e. muscles, bones, nerves, or blood vessels) and could indicate a wide range of conditions, with a varying levels of seriousness. This is why it’s important to talk to a doctor if you have persistent leg pain. They will be able to diagnose the problem and help you get the right treatment.

Characteristics of leg pain

Tingling, tightening or burning sensations, a feeling that your legs are heavy, itching, or muscle pain in the calves or thighs — all of these symptoms can be included under the category of leg pain. Leg pain may come on gradually (this is called chronic pain) or suddenly (known as acute pain) after a pull or strain or physical exertion, for example.

Causes of leg pain

Just as the symptoms of leg pain can vary, the causes can be equally diverse. Leg pain may originate from the muscles, bones, nerves, or blood vessels, among other things.

Muscular origin: this is generally the case for pain that comes on after sudden or repeated movements and persists afterwards. Most of the time, the pain will be due to cramping, soreness and stiffness, or to pulled, strained or torn muscles.

Bone origin: this is often the case for pain linked to a particular physical activity or pain that occurs following an injury. This pain is therefore a sign of injuries such as broken bones and hairline fractures, or even conditions such as bone tumours.

Nerve origin: this is the case for persistent pain that often travels down the thigh or the whole leg. Linked to a pinched nerve in the lower back, this type of pain indicates sciatica or cruralgia.

Vascular origin: most of the time, this type of pain only affects one leg and is a sign of serious circulatory problems such as phlebitis (an inflamed vein), arterial thrombosis (a blood clot in an artery), or venous insufficiency (heavy legs syndrome).

Finally, leg pain can also be linked to other factors such as diabetes or excessive consumption of alcohol, which can cause nerve in the legs to degenerate and may result in pain or loss of sensation.

Heavy legs syndrome

Many people experience a condition known as “heavy legs”, named as such because those affected by this condition experience swollen legs and the feeling that they are dragging their legs. Heavy legs are therefore characterised by a feeling of heaviness in the legs, which suggests poor blood circulation and can become extremely debilitating. This phenomenon is often linked to venous insufficiency and can be an early warning sign of varicose veins.

Healing leg pain: treatment and prevention

Treating leg pain

Given the wide variety of possible causes of leg pain, your treatment will depend on the doctor’s diagnosis. For example, in the case of acute muscle pain, which heals with time, doctors will most often prescribe rest and elevation of the leg. In the case of venous problems, the doctor will most often prescribe elevation of the leg in conjunction with a course of anti-inflammatory drugs. In the most serious cases such as phlebitis or venous insufficiency, you will need to take anti-coagulants and wear compression stockings, and may even need surgery.

There are also other solutions that help reduce leg pain, drug-free. This is where OMRON’s range of pain relievers come in using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to help you to relieve your muscle and joint pain.

There are also some simple measures you can take to help you relieve leg pain. It’s a good idea to elevate the painful leg, allow it to rest, apply ice and then bandage the leg as a compress for the pain.

Preventing leg pain

When it comes to preventing leg pain, walking regularly is especially helpful, as this will ensure good blood circulation. Applying something cold also prevents heavy legs because this narrows the veins, allowing the blood to circulate more easily. Similarly, you should avoid sitting down for too long, especially during flights, when we suggest wearing compression stockings. We also recommend that you strengthen your abdominal muscles, which will reduce the risk of getting trapped nerves in your lower back. Finally, it’s very important to drink enough water.


References:

Blaize, A. (2018). Sore legs: all you need to do. Retrieved from www.e-sante.fr/mal-jambes-tout-ce-qu-il-ne-faut-pas-faire/actualite/1033

PasseportSanté. (2015). Leg pain. Retrieved from www.passeportsante.net/fr/Maux/Symptomes/Fiche.aspx?doc=douleurs-jambes-symptome