St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Leg pain

    Pain - leg; Aches - leg; Cramps - leg

    Leg pain is a common problem. It can be due to a cramp, injury, or other cause.

    Causes

    Leg pain can be due to a muscle cramp (also called a charley horse). Common causes of cramps include:

    • Dehydration or low amounts of potassium, sodium, calcium, or magnesium in the blood
    • Medicines (such as diuretics and statins)
    • Muscle fatigue or strain from overuse, too much exercise, or holding a muscle in the same position for a long time

    An injury can also cause leg pain from:

    • A torn or overstretched muscle (strain)
    • Hairline crack in the bone (stress fracture)
    • Inflamed tendon (tendinitis)
    • Shin splints (pain in the front of the leg from overuse)

    Other common causes of leg pain include:

    • Atherosclerosis that blocks blood flow in the arteries (this type of pain, called claudication, is generally felt when exercising or walking and is relieved by rest)
    • Blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) from long-term bed rest
    • Infection of the bone (osteomyelitis) or skin and soft tissue (cellulitis)
    • Inflammation of the leg joints caused by arthritis or gout
    • Nerve damage common in people with diabetes, smokers, and alcoholics
    • Varicose veins

    Less common causes include:

    • Cancerous bone tumors (osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma)
    • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease -- poor blood flow to the hip that may stop or slow the normal growth of the leg
    • Noncancerous (benign) tumors or cysts of the femur or tibia (osteoid osteoma)
    • Sciatic nerve pain (radiating pain down the leg) caused by a slipped disk in the back
    • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis -- usually seen in boys and overweight children between ages 11 and 15

    Home Care

    If you have leg pain from cramps or overuse, take these steps first:

    • Rest as much as possible.
    • Elevate your leg.
    • Apply ice for up to 15 minutes. Do this 4 times per day, more often for the first few days.
    • Gently stretch and massage cramping muscles.
    • Take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

    Other homecare will depend on the cause of your leg pain.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:

    • The painful leg is swollen or red.
    • You have a fever.
    • Your pain gets worse when you walk or exercise and improves with rest.
    • The leg is black and blue.
    • The leg is cold and pale.
    • You are taking medicines that may be causing leg pain. DO NOT stop taking or change any of your medicines without talking to your health care provider.
    • Self-care steps do not help.

    What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    Your health care provider will perform a physical and look at your legs, feet, thighs, hips, back, knees, and ankles.

    Your health care provider may ask questions such as:

    • Where on the leg is the pain? Is the pain in one or both legs?
    • Is the pain dull and aching or sharp and stabbing? Is the pain severe? Is worse at any time of day?
    • What makes the pain feel worse? Does anything make your pain feel better?
    • Do you have any other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, back pain, or fever?

    Your health care provider may recommend physical therapy for some causes of leg pain.

    References

    Silverstein JA, Moeller JL, Hutchinson MR. Common issues in orthopedics. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 30.

    Bederka B, Amendola A. Leg pain and exertional compartment syndromes. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 24. Section B.

    Ginsberg J. Peripheral venous disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 428.

    Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 428.

    White CJ. Atherosclerotic peripheral arterial disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 79.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Lower leg muscles

      illustration

    • Leg pain (Osgood-Schlatt...

      illustration

    • Shin splints

      illustration

    • Varicose veins

      illustration

    • Retrocalcaneal bursitis

      illustration

      • Lower leg muscles

        illustration

      • Leg pain (Osgood-Schlatt...

        illustration

      • Shin splints

        illustration

      • Varicose veins

        illustration

      • Retrocalcaneal bursitis

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

        Tests for Leg pain

          Review Date: 8/19/2013

          Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile