Pain in the muscles of the legs: what to do?
There is no such person who has not bothered at least once in his life with pain in the muscles of the legs or in the calves. By itself, this is not an alarming symptom and does not require treatment, but at the same time, dynamic or recurrent pain in the muscles of the legs can be a manifestation of dangerous diseases that require medical attention.
The muscular frame of the lower extremities is represented by the internal and external hip muscles, the muscles of the foot, thigh and lower leg. They provide movement of the ankle and knee joints of the legs, as well as the joints of the toes.
- Causes of leg muscle pain
- Damage to the spine and nerve structures
- Diseases of bone tissue, ligaments and joints
- Vascular diseases
- Lesion of the leg muscles
- Metabolic disorders and fiber diseases
- Treating leg muscle pain
Causes of leg muscle pain
Pain in the muscles of the lower extremities can be due to a wide variety of reasons.
Among them are:
- Diseases of the nerve fibers and the spinal column: neuralgia, neuritis, radiculitis, sciatica.
Diseases of the bones, ligaments or joints:
- Tumor neoplasms.
- Lower limb injuries.
- Flat feet.
- Myoenthesitis and paratenonitis.
- Arthritis and arthrosis.
- Varicose veins.
- Atherosclerotic vascular lesions.
- Lymph congestion.
Diseases of the muscle frame:
- Muscle strain associated with physical activity.
Metabolic disorders, fiber diseases:
- Violations of the electrolyte ratio in the body.
Damage to the spine and nerve structures
Radiculitis is a lesion of the roots of the spinal cord, which results in motor, autonomic and pain symptoms. Moreover, the pain that spills along the nerve fibers comes to the fore.
If sciatica affects the lumbar region and sacrum, then the sciatic nerve is involved in the pathological process. Its clamping leads to impaired sensitivity in the legs. This disease is called sciatica. The pain spreads to the sacrum, the lower back, the buttocks, the thigh muscles, the muscles of the foot and lower leg. It becomes more intense when a person begins to show physical activity. To reduce the intensity of pain, a person intuitively lies down and bends his knees, pulling them towards him. In addition, sciatica is manifested by limb numbness and paresthesias.
Sciatica can be a consequence of osteochondrosis of the spine in the lumbar region. With this disease, only the legs often hurt. Moreover, the pain is localized in the buttock and extends to the entire lower limb, to the very foot. The pain will get worse when coughing, sneezing, due to prolonged static position. In addition to pain, a person may experience a burning sensation and numbness, and he will also be bothered by the heaviness in the legs.
Read more: Sciatica - causes, signs and symptoms, how to treat?
Neuralgia and neuritis
Neuritis that affects peripheral nerves can lead to painful sensations in the muscles of the lower extremities. The pain proceeds as seizures, spreads along the entire length of the nerve. The attack does not last long, about 5 seconds. Sometimes it stretches for several minutes. In the period between attacks, a person's pain does not bother.
Diseases of bone tissue, ligaments and joints
Gout develops due to a malfunction in the exchange of purines in the body. As a result, uric acid begins to accumulate in the muscles, and its salts settle in the joints.
Joint pain is the first and most striking symptom of an impending attack of the disease. At the same time, our big toe suffers. As gout progresses, other joints are involved in the pathological process. It is mainly the joints of the legs and toes that are affected.
The attack manifests itself at night, the person begins to "burn" the skin around the joint, it turns red and becomes hot to the touch. The toe hurts and swells. The pain is severe, exhausting a person, spreads to the calf muscle. Soft tissues are involved in the pathological process. If the disease has a severe course, then a general increase in body temperature is possible. The attack lasts for several days. Sometimes it can stretch over a week or even longer. After the seizure is over, the joint begins to function as before.
Gout can get worse 2-6 times a year.
The following factors contribute to seizures:
- Reception of alcoholic beverages.
- Eating fatty meat.
- Drinking coffee, strong tea and cocoa.
- Visit to the bathhouse.
Tofuses may indicate gout. These are a kind of seals in the thickness of the subcutaneous tissue, which are located directly above the diseased joints. They can be found on the forehead, on the shells of the ears, on the flexors of the hips and lower leg, and on the Achilles tendon.
Read more: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Gout on the Feet
Arthritis and arthrosis
Arthritis. Acute or chronic joint inflammation is called arthritis. The pathological process involves the muscle tissue surrounding the joint. Arthritis can be the first symptom of rheumatism, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, metabolic disorders, or autoimmune diseases.
Pain is rarely localized in only one joint, most often the process of inflammation is characterized by polyarthralgia, both limbs suffer in parallel. Painful sensations are quite intense, they bother a person at rest and during movement. The joints are swollen, swollen, the skin over them turns red, becomes hot to the touch.
Other symptoms of arthritis:
- Joints have difficulty moving.
- The joints are deformed.
- Joints crunch during movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis. This disease is chronic and infectious and allergic in nature. The pain is localized in the joints and seizes the surrounding muscles.
The following signs will indicate rheumatoid arthritis:
- Joint and muscle pain, which tends to increase during exercise.
- Swelling of the limbs, which provokes the appearance of a feeling of heaviness in them.
- Change in body temperature over the joints upward.
- Change in the shape of joints, deterioration of their motor activity.
- Vasculitis symptoms.
- Growth of rheumatic nodules on the skin.
Read more: Arthritis - causes, symptoms, degrees, types and diagnosis
Arthrosis. With arthrosis, degenerative-dystrophic changes occur in the joints with the involvement of cartilage tissue in the pathological process. At first, the pain worries a person from time to time, arising after physical exertion, and at rest it quickly passes. As the arthrosis progresses, the intensity of pain increases, spreading from the joints to the muscles. Rest stops helping, pain begins to bother a person at night.
The main symptoms of arthrosis:
- The pain is mechanical.
- In the morning, a person experiences stiffness in the joints.
- The volumes of movement decrease.
- Painful seals appear in the area of the joint space and on the muscles surrounding it.
- The joint starts to crunch.
Read more: Arthrosis - causes, symptoms, complications and treatment methods
With bursitis, the bags of the knee joints become inflamed. Liquid begins to accumulate in them. In this case, there is swelling in the joint area, its soreness. The skin turns red and hot to the touch. Edema seizes the muscles of the limb, which provokes the appearance of a feeling of pain. The maximum intensity of pain is observed when trying to lean on the knee joint, as well as while walking.
In the area of the affected joint, a swelling forms that resembles an egg. It is soft and painful to the touch. It can be seen especially clearly during leg extension.
The skin in the area of the joint becomes crimson, the disease restricts movement of the limb. If bursitis is not treated, then the pathological process becomes chronic. Calcium begins to build up in and around the joint, which increases pain and causes problems in its functioning.
Purulent bursitis develops when an infection is attached. It is indicated by the general symptoms of intoxication of the body (headache, nausea, weakness), increased pain in the leg, increased body temperature.
Read more: Causes, symptoms and complications of bursitis
Under the name tendonitis, several diseases are combined at once, accompanied by inflammation of the tendons. When the inflammation spreads to the lining of the tendon, experts point to tendovaginitis. In this case, a person suffers from muscle pain and disturbances in the work of the affected limb. When a tendon is inflamed, it becomes more prone to injury, making it more likely to tear.
Tendinitis is indicated by signs such as:
- Muscle pain while walking.
- Passive movements do not provoke pain if the damaged tendon is not involved.
- During palpation of the muscle, the pain will intensify.
- The skin becomes hot to the touch and may turn red.
- Squeaks and crunches may be heard during the movement of the leg.
If a person's connective tissue membranes of the muscles of the lower extremities become inflamed, then this disease is called fasciitis. In this case, the mobility of the leg suffers, the person complains of pain.
The skin of the thigh and lower leg coarsens, loses its normal elasticity, becomes like an orange peel. If you try to feel the tissues underneath, then you can palpate small seals.
With osteomyelitis, pus accumulates in the bone tissue, bone marrow, and the muscles surrounding the bones. The disease develops due to the fact that pyogenic microorganisms enter the body. Osteomyelitis is often the result of fractures.
In its acute form, the disease most often occurs in children. The body temperature rises sharply, the intoxication of the body becomes massive. The patient complains of muscle pain, headaches. Loss of consciousness, vomiting, yellowing of the skin is possible.
The first 2 days of illness are characterized by severe pain in the lower leg and thigh. To reduce its intensity, the person takes a forced pose. Limb movements will be kept to a minimum. The skin over the affected area becomes red, its tone increases, veins are clearly visible under it. The body temperature is elevated.
In the future, the intensity of the pain decreases, it becomes aching. Body temperature stabilizes. If the disease has become chronic, then fistulas form at the site of inflammation, from which pus appears. They can form channels that have outlets far from the site of injury. The joint loses its mobility, the bones are bent, the leg is shortened.
Read more: Osteomyelitis - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Flat feet cause pain in the legs. In this case, the arch of the foot is flattened, which makes it impossible to perform its normal shock-absorbing functions. Therefore, the entire load falls on the muscles and joints of the legs.
A person complains of rapid fatigue of the limbs, the appearance of heaviness in them. It is the knees that suffer to a greater extent, since they take on the maximum load. In addition, with flat feet, the spine suffers, which tries to soften the tremors received by a person while walking.
Flat feet are indicated by signs such as:
- The shoe wears out on the inside of the foot.
- Legs get tired quickly, even after a short walk.
- There is a feeling of heaviness in the legs, in the evening they swell a lot.
- The foot increases in size in width.
Myoethenzite and paratenonite
Myoenthesitis is an inflammatory process that is concentrated in the area of the tendon-to-muscle transition.
Paratenonitis is an inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tendon.
Insercitis is inflammation where the ligament is attached to the bone.
All of these conditions are often combined with each other. Their main symptoms are pain and swelling. If the process is chronitized, then the likelihood of muscle tearing, or their complete separation from the attachment point, increases.
Overextension of the muscles of the lower extremities will lead to the development of all the listed pathological conditions, which contributes to their regular minimal injury. Risk factors include hypothermia, chronic diseases, overwork of the body as a whole.
Fractured muscles are always damaged. The pain can be of varying intensity.
A fracture can be suspected in the following cases:
- The person complains of pain, which tends to intensify during movement.
- The damaged area is swollen.
- Leg movement is difficult.
- A bruise appears under the skin.
Signs that indicate that the fracture has definitely occurred:
- The leg is twisted in an unnatural direction.
- The leg moves in places where there are no joints.
- A crunch of bone fragments is heard.
- A person has an open fracture with bleeding and shock.
In addition to a fracture, pain in the legs can be caused by soft tissue bruises.
If a person's body temperature rises, he experiences weakness, his appetite worsens and his weight decreases, then this may be the first signs of a cancerous process in the body. A tumor of the bone tissue will additionally indicate pain at the site of its localization.
At first, the pain is mild, it can occur and disappear for no apparent reason. As the pathology progresses, pain begins to bother a person on an ongoing basis. If the tumor grows in the bone or in the periosteum, then it will increasingly compress blood vessels and nerve endings. As a result, even pain relievers will stop working.
Sometimes the first sign of a tumor may be a fracture in a place in the bone that has not been traumatized or damaged. The bone can break when making a sudden movement or when lifting a heavy object. The tumor weakens the strength of the tissue, which causes its injury.
Read more: Heel spur - causes, symptoms, how to treat?
Atherosclerotic disease can cause pain in the legs if cholesterol plaques are deposited on the inner wall of the vessels of the lower extremities. The pain is concentrated at the site of a thickened vein or artery. During walking, the intensity of painful sensations increases.
The patient often experiences cold feet, regardless of the ambient temperature.
Read more: Atherosclerosis - Causes, Symptoms and Modern Treatment Methods
Endarteritis is manifested by inflammation of the arteries. Most often, the vessels of the lower extremities are affected. The leading symptom of the disease is intermittent claudication. That is, the first 100 steps a person walks lightly, after which one or both limbs begin to hurt, a feeling of heaviness and numbness appears in them. After a short rest, all these symptoms disappear. However, they return again when a person takes a few steps.
Patients often complain of a feeling of coldness in the legs, cramps in the muscles of the lower leg.
With varicose veins, the veins of the lower extremities expand.
- Pain and a feeling of heaviness in the legs, their increased fatigue.
- Convulsions of the lower extremities, which occur most often at night.
- Swelling of the legs.
- Burning in feet and legs.
- Swelling along the veins of the lower extremities.
- The appearance of spider veins on the legs.
With varicose veins, restless legs syndrome is often observed.
The disease does not develop in one day, but over several years. Risk factors that can lead to varicose veins:
- Excess weight.
- Physical inactivity.
- Prolonged standing or sitting.
- The period of bearing a child.
- Taking hormonal drugs.
In each of these cases, the blood in the legs flows more slowly than it should be, stagnates in the veins, which causes muscle pain. They have a crushing character.
Skin changes in the form of nodules and asterisks occur in patients with the progression of the disease. In its initial stages, a person will experience heaviness and pain in the legs, the muscles will be in increased tone. In the evening, the patient develops edema. Therefore, one should not wait for the skin manifestations of the disease to appear. If you experience a feeling of heaviness in the legs and with edema, you should contact a phlebologist.
The main symptoms of varicose veins with the progression of the disease:
- Veins are dilated, protrude under the skin, and shine through it.
- The leg muscles hurt a lot.
- The skin over the veins is inflamed.
- There are signs of thrombophlebitis.
- Ulcers do not heal well.
Read more: Varicose veins - causes, symptoms and complications
Thrombophlebitis is an inflammation of the venous wall, provoked by blood congestion in the lower extremities. At the same time, it becomes thick, which contributes to the formation of blood clots.
Symptoms that indicate thrombophlebitis:
- Pain in the muscles of the lower extremities is of a pulsating nature, a person complains of a burning sensation in the legs. Pain worries on an ongoing basis, may be accompanied by swelling and heaviness in the muscles.
- Seals form in the veins that hurt.
- If thrombophlebitis affects deep vessels, then the swelling of the legs will be severe, since the veins lose their capacity.
Thrombophlebitis often has a chronic course with periods of exacerbation and calm. The main danger of the disease is that a blood clot can break off and enter the vessels that feed the vital organs with the blood flow.
It is the separation of a blood clot that often leads to the development of a heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.
Read more: Deep vein thrombophlebitis of the lower extremities
Lymphostasis can be congenital and acquired. The disease is expressed in violation of the outflow of lymph from the vessels located on the periphery.
The following symptoms indicate lymphostasis:
- Heaviness and pain in the lower limbs.
- Swelling of the legs.
- Trophic changes on the skin of the legs.
- Frequent suppuration of lesions that are localized on the legs.
Read more: Lymphostasis - stages and causes
Lesion of the leg muscles
Inflammation of the muscles is called myositis. In this case, the pain will be concentrated in the place where this inflammation occurred. They increase when pressure is applied to the affected area and when muscles are exerted during physical activity. As a result, she becomes even more tense and begins to hurt more.
Myositis can be a consequence of infectious diseases that a person has suffered, or develop after physical exertion, for which he was not ready.
Leg pain can be intense. She worries the patient both during movement and at rest. Sometimes the muscles react with soreness even when the weather changes. Ties and seals are formed in them.
The skin in the area of inflammation turns red. If left untreated, the disease can lead to skeletal muscle atrophy.
Purulent myositis develops when an infection enters the muscle during injury.
This is manifested by the following symptoms:
- Increased body temperature.
- Severe muscle pain.
- Muscle swelling, induration.
If parasites (cysticercus or trichinella) have penetrated into the muscle, then the person develops a fever. The pain is present on an ongoing basis. Chest, tongue, and chewing muscles may hurt.
If the muscles of the lower extremities are subjected to a repetitive and prolonged load, this will lead to pain. It will be concentrated in the place where the maximum application of force was observed.
If a person sits or stands for a long time, for example, due to the peculiarities of the profession, this will lead to stagnation of blood in the veins of the legs. Muscles will no longer receive useful substances, waste products will begin to accumulate in them, namely, lactic acid. As a result, a person has muscle pain. They can be dull, aching, or stabbing. Sometimes the pain is combined with cramps and a feeling of heaviness in the legs.
If the leg muscle cramp, then the pain is often sharp and severe. In this case, several muscle groups will suffer at once. Disruptions in metabolic processes, circulatory disorders, and overwork can provoke convulsions.
The pain occurs unexpectedly for a person. If leg cramps are rare, then don't worry. However, when they bother a person on an ongoing basis, you need to consult a specialist.
Read more: Causes and symptoms of seizures
The muscle can stretch while running or briskly walking, during any physical activity. Sometimes uncomfortable shoes can cause muscle strain. The pain occurs immediately or several days after the traumatic episode.
The muscles in the area of injury swell, their tone increases. A person complains of pain, which will intensify during palpation of the muscle, during movement of the limb, when bending the joints of the leg. This pain persists for several days or even weeks.
Read more: Causes and symptoms of muscle strain
When the leg joint is suddenly flexed or extended, the muscle can rupture. The damage is concentrated in a limited area, most often where the muscle connects to the tendon. However, a massive rupture cannot be ruled out, in which the muscle may even move away from the tendon. Such injuries are most often caused by sharp bending of the limb against the acting force, for example, during sharp braking during fast running.
The pain in violation of the integrity of the muscles is always acute and intense. The man compares it to a sharp blow to the leg. The pain may become weaker and then intensify again, which is facilitated by muscle spasm and increased bruising.
Sometimes, during palpation of the affected muscle, a seal can be felt. It forms due to the accumulation of blood at the rupture site. The leg swells a lot and movement becomes limited due to pain. In the area of muscle rupture, you can palpate the gap.
Compression syndrome or crash syndrome is a serious pathology that develops as a result of applying strong pressure on the muscles, which leads to the development of massive internal hemorrhage.
The hematoma presses on the nerve endings and blood vessels, which leads to a worsening of the situation. The leg in the affected area swells, becomes hot to the touch, and hurts a lot.
If you do not help a person in time, then the crash syndrome can lead to irreversible death of soft tissues and nerve fibers. As a result, a person becomes disabled, having lost the ability to move.
During treatment with anticoagulants, a person may find hemorrhages in the muscles of the lower extremities. Moreover, there was no blow or any application of force to this place.
A person complains of pain, which will intensify as the hematoma grows in size.
Read more: Hematoma - causes and symptoms
Fibromyalgia belongs to the category of systemic diseases. It develops mainly in women in old age, and can be inherited.
Fibromyalgia suffers from soft tissues that are located around the joints. On the legs, the hips are more affected. Also, the muscles of the neck, neck, shoulders, back and chest may be involved in the pathological process. The pain intensifies during physical exertion, under stress, when in a damp and cold room.
Metabolic disorders and fiber diseases
A decrease in the concentration of salts in the body can lead to pain in the muscles of the legs. A similar situation is observed with dehydration of the body against the background of diarrhea, vomiting, or with the use of diuretics.
A person has a strong thirst, when the balance of salts is disturbed, edema forms. Blood pressure may decrease, heartbeat increase. Heart rhythm disturbances cannot be ruled out.
Phlegmon and panniculitis
With phlegmon, the subcutaneous fatty tissue becomes inflamed due to the penetration of pathogenic flora into it. Muscles are involved in the inflammatory process. The patient has pains in the legs, the body temperature rises, weakness increases.
Panniculitis is an inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue with the formation of nodules in it. They are painful, in size they can reach 5 cm. Pain is a consequence of the pressure of the nodes on the nerve fibers. The skin over the nodules is red and swollen. There can be a lot of them. Sometimes they merge into one large seal.
Knots can be present in tissues for months or even years. After their resorption, cavities remain on the muscles, and the skin looks dark and unhealthy. If the nodes disintegrate, then an oily liquid flows out of them. An ulcer forms at the site of the node opening, which heals over time.
Other symptoms of panniculitis include weakness, malaise, poor appetite, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
Read more: Causes and symptoms of phlegmon
If a person is overweight, then he will be bothered by pain in the legs. Excess weight is an additional load on joints and muscles, which manifests itself as painful sensations.
Read more: Obesity - degrees, types, how to treat?
Treating leg muscle pain
Self-medication is categorically contraindicated. Treatment is prescribed after finding out the cause of the pain in the muscles of the legs, in the calves. Perhaps you need emergency surgical care for arterial insufficiency, or conservative inpatient treatment for venous thrombosis. Some diseases of the spine that contribute to pain in the muscles of the legs are also subject to surgery.
Palliative care can significantly reduce pain.
Video: Elena Malysheva's program "What to do if your leg hurts?"
There are also common methods for all that help get rid of or reduce pain in the muscles of the legs.
In order to prevent muscle pain, the following recommendations must be followed:
- Vascular diseases require adherence to a diet in which fatty foods, which are a source of cholesterol, are limited.
- It is necessary to monitor body weight, do gymnastics. It is an effective method to combat obesity and varicose veins.
- If the work is associated with a forced sitting or standing position, then it is necessary to take breaks in it, flexing the muscles.
- Diseases of the joints and the spinal column require timely treatment.
- Exercises on the abdominal muscles can help relieve tension from the lower back. This will avoid the occurrence of pain that radiates to the lower back and lower extremities.
Video: 4 exercises for hip pain:
Author of the article: Kaplan Alexander Sergeevich | Orthopedist
Education: diploma in the specialty "General Medicine" received in 2009 at the Medical Academy. I. M. Sechenov. In 2012 completed postgraduate studies in Traumatology and Orthopedics at the City Clinical Hospital named after Botkin at the Department of Traumatology, Orthopedics and Disaster Surgery.