When Should I Be Concerned About Leg Pain?

By Ben Loomis – DSC_9441.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73875056

Leg cramps are uncomfortable, of course, but most of us discount them. After all, it’s hard to get to work on a condition commonly known as “charley horse,” for which your mother might tell you to eat more bananas. But when leg pain begins to stop you in your tracks on a daily basis, it’s time to take it seriously.

Leg pain is like back pain, with millions suffering from it. Most assume that all leg pain is musculoskeletal or nerve related, but people need to know that some forms of leg pain may be the first sign of heart disease.

Claudication is the medical term for leg pain that occurs during exercise. Most describe the pain as a cramp that occurs while walking, which is relieved by rest. When such leg pain occurs every time you exercise or move, and it stops soon after you stop, it may be a sign of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.

When Good Vessels Go Bad

PAD occurs when large blood vessels that provide blood to the limbs and other essential parts of the body are partially or fully blocked by fatty deposits.

This hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels, called atherosclerosis, occurs across the body, but can manifest as leg pain in patients with PAD, Dr. Patel said. The more you use your muscles, the more blood flow you need, but because of the buildup, that flow is limited, resulting in a cramping sensation.

Unfortunately people who have this disorder prefer to dial their physical activity to prevent discomfort instead of seeking help from their physician. This can be a risky move, since people with PAD-especially smokers and diabetics-are at risk of a lethal heart attack or stroke, and some serious cases can lead to limb loss.

Clearing the Channels

The risk factors for PAD are close to those for heart disease: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking, and diabetes. And as with heart disease, there are many things that can be done to slow down the progression of PAD, particularly when it’s caught early.

This means taking chronic leg pain seriously, particularly if you have risk factors for PAD and heart disease. If you get calf, buttock, or leg pain as you walk, and you need to sit and rest, ask yourself: what would I do if it were chest pain? You’d better have it checked out even though you felt it might just be heartburn or reflux. This could be the counterpart of chest pain.

If you notice these following signs, you should be worried about your leg pain and schedule a doctor’s appointment:

  • Pain that worsens when you walk or exercise
  • Failure of home care treatments
  • Painful varicose veins
  • Swelling of both the legs
  • Shooting or radiating pain

Seek urgent medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever and other signs of infection
  • Bluish or blackish colored leg
  • Cold and pale legs
  • Swelling of legs with breathing difficulties
  • Unable to put more weight on the leg
  • Leg injury with popping and grinding noise
  • Swollen, red painful legs

Are You Looking for Relief From Neck Pain? 

Pace Physical Therapy in San Jose, California specializes in non-surgical neck pain relief and recovery therapies.  We pride ourselves on offering the best possible physical therapy available and going above and beyond for our patients. Our highly experienced physical therapist will work with you to improve your function and relieve your pain. We start by assessing the body as a whole. Oftentimes the cause of pain or an injury extends far beyond just the body part or muscle hurting. Without taking a comprehensive look at your entire self, we would be doing you a disservice in fully helping you heal and preventing future limitations. We then move on to fixing your areas of limitation.  Not all diagnoses are created equal. One person with neck pain may have completely different limitations than the next person. Your recovery program needs to be specific to what YOUR body needs and not just the typical exercise program that you can find online. Just because your pain decreases or you can walk longer doesn’t mean that it is enough to get you functioning at the level you want to be. While this often signifies the end of care at your typical PT clinic we don’t stop providing guidance until we help you successfully meet every goal you set for yourself with us on day one. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!