Like most Americans, we rely on our automobiles to get us from point A to B.
That’s why we respond immediately when the check engine light comes on. We get our oil changed when the manual tells us to, and we do our best to keep our tires in good shape so we don’t have problems down the road.
With all the effort we put into taking care of our cars, we often neglect our tires, which is literally where the rubber meets the road. The same is often true of our legs.
We tend to focus on every other part of our body with preventive care. But with the legs, it’s only when we feel pain, or break or strain something, that we take notice. So here is a bit of an owner’s manual that can help you determine what could be causing pain in your legs, and what you might be able to do about it.
Charley is the horse you never want to meet, and for anyone who has ever suffered through a leg cramp while sleeping or exercising, you know that it can immobilize you with pain. A cramp, or a Charley Horse, occurs suddenly and causes tightness and extreme pain.
Those who are frequented by leg cramps know the best relief is to immediately flex the foot and hold it as long as you can, and to continue that motion until the cramp eases out. To prevent cramps, stay hydrated, eat potassium-rich foods such as bananas, and get enough rest.
The first time you feel that pain in your Achilles tendon, you know it’s going to take a long time to heal. But heal it will, with time, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication.
To lessen the risk of injuring your Achilles, be sure to do gentle stretching before exercise, wear appropriate shoes with enough support, and don’t overdo it to the point that your tendon becomes inflamed.
Shin Splints and Stress Fractures
It’s a pain you can’t deny, and chances are you had them when you were a kid, when the tennis shoes were not as high-tech or cushioned as they are today. Shin splints occur when the muscles on the top of the shin bone become so inflamed that they cause pain every time you walk or put strain on your legs in any fashion.
To prevent shin splints, stretch your shins often and wear supportive shoes, especially if you stand on hard surfaces, run, or play aggressive sports like basketball or tennis. If you should get shin splints, see a doctor and follow the medical advice you are given that is tailored to your specific condition.
At the onset of the Iraq War, 39-year old news correspondent David Bloom was embedded with an Army unit, riding in a tank, when he suddenly collapsed and died. The cause of his death was a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Mr. Bloom was in that tank, immobile for hours and was unable to stretch his legs and get his blood circulating. Maybe you know someone who wears orthopedic stockings when they travel or they set their watch to walk about the train or airplane cabin every hour? The reason is to prevent DVT.
If you are one of the more than half a million people who suffer from DVT, you know that prevention is key. Keep hydrated, moving, and active. Do not smoke, watch your weight, and be sure to carry any prescribed medication with you at all times, just in case.
Varicose or Spider Veins
Varicose veins are not only unsightly, they can be painful. These bluish, entwined veins are caused by weak vein walls and can be painful, especially after long periods of standing or intense activity. If you do have varicose veins, make sure you seek out a qualified medical professional to discuss treatment options.
The sciatica nerve branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. And when you pinch the nerve or it becomes inflamed, expect a lot of pain. Hearing people speak of a “shooting pain down their leg” usually means their sciatica is acting up. Those suffering from sciatic pain may require medical intervention.
Diabetic Pain and Other Neuropathies
Some people say it feels like stinging bees are nested right below the skin surface. That’s because diabetic pain and other neuropathies can create a burning sensation, numbness, and pain in the upper and lower legs. If you are diabetic, be sure to monitor blood sugar levels. If you are not diabetic but suffer from similar symptoms, see a doctor to determine the cause of the pain.
Do you have leg pain that is preventing you from doing the activities you want to do? If so you may want to seek medical advice to determine the reason why, and the best course of action to treat it. Call the experienced, friendly staff at Intercoastal Medical Group at one of our area locations or request an appointment online.