Our legs suffer a lot of wear and tear during the course of a lifetime. As soon as we learn how to walk, we keep using them. Sometimes we run, we jump, we hop and we stomp. And each of these movements means extra strain for muscles, ligaments and bones.
So, at a certain point, we feel pain in our legs. If you exercise a lot or go jogging frequently, you feel it as heaviness in your legs. Sometimes you sprain your ankle or develop athlete’s foot. But many people simply realize that they have leg pain for no apparent reason. In this case, should you call a doctor or try home treatments?
Understand the Cause of Leg Pain
As we briefly stated above leg pain can be caused by intense exercise or trauma. If you have a sprained ankle, there is no question about it, you must see a doctor. However, if you have muscle cramps after a particularly long and difficult jog outdoors, a warm bath and massage will solve the problem.
Yet, there are other causes of leg pain, some of them with serious implication for your health. These are:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Bursitis (joint inflammation)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thrombophlebitis (a blood clot in the leg).
In some cases, children undergoing puberty may experience growing pains, but they usually go away by themselves, with no specific course of treatment. Older people and pregnant women also experience night leg cramps (contractions of the calf muscles).
How to Deal with Each Type of Pain
There are four possible scenarios in dealing with leg pain. We range them from the least to the most dangerous to your health.
- Home Treatment
Minor leg pain, accompanied by swelling or not, can be usually treated at home using the RICE method:
- Rest the injured leg (or legs) and refrain from walking
- Ice the injured area using a frozen pea bag or a bag of ice cubes
- Compression: apply a compressive elastic bandage around the injured area; however, avoid wrapping it too tightly, because you risk cutting off blood flow
- Elevate: lift the injured leg above the level of the heart, by placing one or several pillows under it.
- Schedule a Visit to Your Doctor
Here are some of the types of leg pain that should not be left unexamined by a doctor:
- Leg pain that does not improve with home care after a few days
- Pain during or after walking
- Swelling in both legs
- Painful varicose veins
- Pain that increases from one day to the other.
- Go to Your Doctor as Soon as Possible
You should go to your doctor even without a prior appointment if you notice:
- Redness, warmth or tender flesh, which are signs of an infection
- Swollen leg, cool to the touch and with pale skin
- Pain in your calf after sitting down for a long time (a flight, a long drive)
- Swelling in both legs accompanied by difficulties in breathing
- Any kind of symptom that appears for no good reason.
- Call an Ambulance or Go to the Emergency Room
These are situations in which you must receive medical treatment for leg pain without delay:
- Open leg injury with exposed bone or ligaments
- Inability to walk or put weight at all on one leg
- You heard a popping or grinding sound at the moment of the accident
- Your calf is painful, swollen, tender or warm to the touch.