Minor leg problems, such as sore muscles, are common. Leg problems
commonly occur during sports or recreational activities, work-related tasks,
and work or projects around the home. Leg problems also can be caused by
injuries. If you think your leg problem is related to an injury, see the topic
Leg problems may be minor or serious and may
include symptoms such as pain, swelling, cramps, numbness, tingling, weakness,
or changes in temperature or color. Symptoms often develop from exercise,
everyday wear and tear, or overuse.
Older adults have a higher risk
for leg problems because they lose muscle mass as they age. Children may have
leg problems for the same reasons as adults or for reasons specific to
children. Problems are often caused by overactivity or the rapid growth of bone
and muscle that occurs in children.
It may be helpful to know what the bones of the thigh and lower leg look like as well as the muscles and tendons to better understand leg problems. Leg problems that are not related to a specific injury have
Some leg problems are seen only in children, such as swelling
at the top of the shinbone (Osgood-Schlatter disease) and swelling
and pain in the knee joint (juvenile idiopathic arthritis).
Growing pains are common among rapidly growing
children and teens and are probably caused by differences in growth rates
of muscle, bone, and soft tissue. These pains often last for 1 or 2 hours at a
time and can wake a child from sleep.
Swollen feet are common
after you have been sitting or standing for long periods of time or during hot
or humid weather. Sitting or lying down and elevating your legs will often
relieve this type of swelling. Conditions that put increased pressure on the
belly and pelvis, such as
obesity and pregnancy, also can cause swelling in the
feet and ankles and
medicines can cause problems in the legs. For example,
birth control pills and other hormones can increase your risk of blood clots,
while water pills (diuretics), heart medicines, and cholesterol-lowering
medicines (statins) can cause muscle cramps.
Some leg problems are
only present at night:
Most minor leg problems will heal on their own, and home
treatment may be all that is needed to relieve symptoms and promote healing.
But serious leg problems also may occur and require prompt evaluation by a
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Based on your answers, you need
or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Pain in children 3 years and older
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Some medicines can cause leg problems. A few examples
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of infection may
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood
supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons
for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn
blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color
returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area
looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and
this change does not go away.
If your leg problem does not
require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to
help relieve pain, swelling, stiffness or muscle cramps.
Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will
often help leg cramps. For more information about the home treatment of muscle
cramps that are often caused by dehydration from exercise or heat, see the
If you think your child is
growing pains, try warmth and massage to relieve
discomfort in the legs. Do not rub or massage a calf that is swollen.
For leg cramps, consider wearing support stockings during the day, and
take frequent rest periods (with your feet up). If leg cramps occur during
pregnancy, make sure you are eating a diet rich in
magnesium. Talk with your doctor about taking a
calcium supplement. He or she may recommend a calcium supplement that does not
Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it
decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the
Reduce stress on your leg (until you can get advice from your
For more information about the home treatment of problems
varicose veins, see the topic
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
The following tips may prevent leg
For information on how to prevent
blood clots from developing in the legs, see the topic
Deep Vein Thrombosis.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
February 6, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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