Leg muscle pain can be a very distressing symptom and may prevent a person from being able to move around normally. Common causes of leg muscle pain are muscle strains, abnormal muscle contractions, or traumatic injury involving one or more muscles found in the legs. Finding the best treatment for leg muscle pain is often a matter of trial and error, as each patient responds differently. Common treatment methods include resting the affected muscles, gentle stretching exercises, and the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications. When in doubt, it is always best to consult a physician.
Leg cramps are a frequent cause of leg muscle pain and are most often caused by overuse. When this occurs, it is generally best to rest the leg in an elevated position as much as possible until the pain subsides. Applying ice to the affected area may be helpful as well. Patients are usually advised to apply the ice several times per day for up to 15 minutes at a time. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be taken as directed.
Muscle strains due to abnormal muscle contractions are also common causes of leg muscle pain. Treatment is very similar to that suggested for leg cramps. Once the pain subsides, gentle exercises can begin. It is important to remember that the exercise should stop immediately if it becomes painful. If over-the-counter pain medications do not provide sufficient relief, doctors may sometimes prescribe stronger medications.
Once the initial leg muscle pain has begun to subside, heat may be used instead of ice. Heat therapy is used the same way and at the same intervals as ice therapy. There are also several over-the-counter creams and ointments that are available in most drug stores to treat muscle pain. These over-the-counter preparations are made with a variety of active ingredients, so the patient may need to try a few different varieties before finding one that helps.
Some potential complications from leg muscle pain to look for include worsening pain, swelling, and skin discoloration. If any of these symptoms develop or if self-care methods do not help to ease the pain, a doctor should be consulted right away. The doctor may order a few tests to make sure there are no dangerous complications, such as a blood clot or blockage. Most of these tests can be performed in the doctor's office, although some may involve a brief stay in the hospital.