More than a third of Americans suffer from lower leg pain, including chronic leg pain that makes it hard to walk, sleep, and enjoy other activities. While some leg pain is temporary, other pain can be a sign of a more serious underlying problem that isn’t going to get better without medical treatment.
Dr. Allison Burkett is skilled in advanced diagnostic testing that helps determine what’s causing leg pain in her patients at Middle Georgia Vascular Surgery Center & Vein Solutions. As a top-ranked vascular surgeon in Warner Robins, Georgia, here’s what she wants her patients to know about leg pain — and how to relieve it.
Lots of people wonder if their leg pain is normal, and the answer is, “It depends.” Leg pain is a normal response to lots of issues, including muscle strain, arthritis, and harder-to-identify causes, like vascular issues.
But just because pain is a natural part of your body’s response system, that doesn't mean it’s OK. In fact, leg pain is your body’s most direct way of communicating to you that something’s not right — and in that sense, leg pain really shouldn’t be thought of as normal.
It’s true, there are some types of leg pain that will likely go away on their own with a little rest, like the aches you can feel after strenuous activity like a day of painting, gardening or hiking, for example.
But plenty of leg pain causes are far more serious. If you ignore them or commit yourself to weeks of home remedies, the underlying problem that’s causing your pain could wind up getting worse.
Dull aches, throbbing leg pain, and cramps can all be associated with problems with your blood vessels. Varicose veins are a well-known cause of leg pain, but other vascular issues can cause pain, too, including venous disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
CVI is a relatively common type of venous disease that happens when your deeper leg veins are damaged, making it harder for them to return blood from your feet and legs to your heart. If you have CVI, you’re more likely to have pain that resolves when you rest, along with other symptoms, such as:
You may even have restless legs syndrome, a chronic problem that causes an irresistible urge to move your legs, especially when you’re trying to sleep.
While CVI involves your leg veins, PAD affects the leg arteries — the vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart and lungs to every other part of your body.
Like CVI, PAD tends to cause leg pain or cramps while you’re active and resolves when you’re at rest. That’s because your leg muscles need more blood during activity. If your arteries are damaged, they may not be able to supply all the oxygen your muscles need — and that leads to aches and cramps.
Other symptoms of PAD include:
PAD symptoms can happen in both legs or one leg, which is why you may have symptoms only on one side.
We all have a little leg pain from time to time, but if you have pain that’s persistent or recurrent, interrupts sleep, or interferes with your activities, it’s time to see the doctor. To learn what’s causing your leg pain and find out how Dr. Burkett can help, call (478) 238-5513 or book an appointment online with us at Middle Georgia Vascular Surgery Center & Vein Solutions.