Top 4 Causes of Leg Pain

A Common Pain

Pain in the extremities is something that sends lots of us to the doctor looking for medical causes or medical relief. This typically involves things like aching calves, burning legs, and numbness in the feet. And we should definitely have this investigated if the cause isn't something obvious like a bad fall. According to the Mayo Clinic, leg pain is most often a symptom of wear and tear, overuse of a muscle, or injuries in the ligaments and joints. But don't try to tough it out if you have these symptoms and don't know why, since pain can also be caused by things like blood clots.

“Leg pain that comes on acutely with a bang, is severe and doesn't resolve within minutes probably needs to be seen right away,” as it could be a sign of a more serious condition, says Dr. Benjamin Wedro, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin and an emergency physician at Gundersen Medical Center in Lacrosse, Wis. “There's no trophy for suffering.”

We're going to investigate and cover some of the more troubling causes of leg pain. Don't, however, use this solely as medical advice without seeing a physician.

Distress of Blood Vessels

  • Claudication happens when there is a decreased blood supply to the legs
  • This is often a symptom of PAD (peripheral arterial disease), a disease characterized by the narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to the extremities.
  • PAD is usually caused by smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and/or obesity
  • In this case, it's usually a pain that occurs precisely when you are active, since sufficient blood flow isn't reaching your muscles. This triggers a pain response. The pain usually stops pretty immediately when you stop the activity.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is another potential blood vessel anomaly that can be responsible.
  • DVT is a type of blood clot in a deep vein. It forms after long periods of inactivity. It usually occurs in one leg and will cause it to turn to a blue-ish hue. The onset of pain is also gradual
  • DVT is important to get checked as it could potentially move elsewhere in the body, causing blockage of blood flow to the lungs for example. A block of bloodflow to the lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism.

Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Neuropathy is known as a disorder in the peripheral motor, autonomic, and sensory nerves that connect our spinal cord to our internal organs, muscles, and skin.
  • Neuropathy usually is the cause for numbness, tingling, or a heavy sensation in the limbs.
  • Neuropathy can occur with infection, toxin exposure, or alcoholism. The most prevalent cause is diabetes. Pre-diabetics can also experience this symptom.

Electrolyte Imbalance

  • Healthy muscles depend on healthy nerves. Healthy nerves need a good balance of electrolytes
  • Electrolytes include minerals that have an electric charge. These are things like potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium.
  • Electrolytes give out signals that can support nerve, heart and muscle function.  They even determine how much water the body holds onto.
  • Certain medications mess with electrolyte imbalance: Chemotherapy drugs (cisplatin), Diuretics (furosemide[Lasix] or bumetanide[Bumex]), Antibiotics (amphotericin B), Corticosteroids (hydrocortisone)
  • Diarrhea and kidney disease can also affect your electrolyte balance.
  • Sodium attracts water to cells. When sodium runs low, the cells straining to make up for lack of water, might manifest as pain in the legs.
  • You also don't want to drink too MUCH water, as this can flush out electrolytes.

Back Issues

  • Spinal stenosis happens when the spinal canal slowly narrows, putting pressure on the nerves therein. This is typically only caused by spinal injury, arthritis, or scoliosis. These irritated nerves can connect to the body's largest nerves, the sciatic nerve. Issues with this nerve can certainly cause leg pain.
  • Seek emergency care if you have a loss of bladder or bowel control paired with your leg pain. This can be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, although it's a rare disorder. Without swift care or treatment, this could lead to paralysis.


  • With osteoarthritis and the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, this can easily lead to inflammation and soreness.
  • Though arthritis is a joint disease, the resulting pain can often be felt in the leg and foot muscles.
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