The most common cause of leg pain is leg injury or strain. In addition, heavy exercise can frequently be the cause of leg pain. Treatment generally includes simple remedies such as over-the-counter pain relievers, rest and elevation. When pain progressively worsens, or when pain is described as throbbing, the physician needs to be called for further investigation.
Infrequently, a serious cause of leg pain, or specifically calf pain, is a blood clot. Pain is usually not the only symptoms of a blood clot. Most of the time, redness, inflammation, pain upon flexing the foot and tenderness over the affected area are commonly present. Blood clots in the leg need immediate treatment because they can break off and travel to the heart or lungs. Treatment for leg blood clots include anticoagulant therapy, elevating the leg higher than the heart, and compression stockings.
Varicose veins are also a common cause of leg pain and sometimes occur as a result of prolonged standing, family history, and genetics. People who are employed in certain occupations such as hairdressing and construction work are especially prone to varicose veins. Taking pain medications, elevating the legs, and wearing elastic stockings can help with symptoms. Occasionally, the physician might recommend surgical intervention to treat large, cord-like varicose veins.
Exercising can be the cause of leg pain and it can eliminate it. Vigorous activities such as running and long distance cycling can contribute to leg pain. On the other hand, mild exercise such as a leisurely stroll and short distance, moderate bike riding can stimulate circulation and reduce leg pain. If pain becomes severe, exercise is discouraged, until the cause of leg pain can be determined. This is especially true of calf pain, because if a blood clot is present, exercise can dislodge the clot and cause it to travel.
Knee pain is also a common cause of leg pain. Arthritis of the knee can cause swelling, pain, and fluid retention. Draining fluid from the knee can offer relief, as can ibuprofen and wrapping the knee with an elastic bandage. Sometimes, physical therapy is recommended to help with mobility and to decrease discomfort. A torn cartilage often produces significant knee pain as well as difficulty bending the leg. In cases of a torn cartilage, surgery is often needed to removed the affected tissue to restore mobility.
Occasionally, leg cramps can cause leg pain. They can be caused by dehydration, loss of potassium, and too much exercise. Replacement of fluids with water and sports drinks can often replace lost electrolytes and reduce symptoms. In addition, walking is often effective in relieving leg cramps and charlie-horse type pain. When leg cramps cause debilitating pain, the health care provider needs to evaluate the cause, and develop a treatment plan.