Leg pain is a common symptom in a lot of people, and while most of the time it can be attributed to a cramp, muscular stiffness, or as the result of an injury, sometimes there are other, less obvious causes. While self-diagnosis is not a good idea if leg pain persists and there is no clear or reasonable explanation, it could be that there is an underlying problem that requires medical attention. Read on below to find out about a few of the potential hidden causes of leg pain.
Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, can be extremely uncomfortable and is caused by damage to the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back through the legs. Damage to this nerve can be caused by a number of factors, the most common one occurring in older people being a slipped disk at the bottom of the spine. Other potential causes include pelvic injury or fracture and narrowing of the spinal cord.
Although it often presents itself as radiating pain down the leg, sciatica can also cause numbness, tingling, or a burning feeling. The pain or numbness is usually just in one leg or one side of the body and may get worse after standing or sitting, and sometimes, it worsens at night. In some people, the pain is so severe it renders them unable to move.
Hardening of the Arteries
Hardening of the arteries - also called atherosclerosis - is a problem that becomes much more prevalent with age and particularly in conjunction with weight gain. It is caused by a buildup of fat cells and cholesterol on the walls of the arteries, called plaque, which leads to narrower arteries and potential blockages. Pain associated with this disorder is most often felt during exercise or movement. The complications associated with this problem can be quite severe, such as heart attacks, angina, and strokes.
However, this condition is fairly easy to avoid if certain lifestyle guidelines are followed. These generally include a diet low in saturated fat, a healthy weight, regular exercise, a limited intake of alcohol, and no smoking.
A blood clot that forms in a vein far inside the body is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It is a problem that most often affects those over the age of 60; however, it is related to prolonged bed-rest or sitting in a sedentary position for an extended period of time. Consequently, there is a risk of DVT on long-haul flights of eight hours or more. This is not a serious problem unless the blood clot separates from the wall of the vein and starts to move throughout the body.
In order to help lower your risk of DVT, physical activity, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight are the top recommendations. Both smoking and obesity lead to a narrowing of the veins and arteries, which makes blood clots more likely to occur. For long flights, wearing compression stockings has been shown to be very effective in reducing leg swelling and the risk of DVT.
Although generic leg pain is a common condition in people of all ages and can result from a variety of sources, prolonged discomfort should always be investigated further. Remember that keeping a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly can help prevent leg pain, and are particularly relevant for menopausal women. Read on for menopausal leg pain treatments.
- National Health Service UK. (2014). Preventing DVT when you travel. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/travelhealth/Pages/PreventingDVT.aspx
- National Institute of Health. (2014). Deep Venous thrombosis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000156.htm
- National Institute of Health. (2014). Hardening of the arteries: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000171.htm
- National Institute of Health. (2013). Leg Pain: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003182.htm
- National Institute of Health. (2014). Sciatica: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000686.htm