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Home > Health Library > Leg Problems, Noninjury
Minor leg problems, such as sore muscles, are common. Leg problems often occur during sports or recreational activities, work-related tasks, and work or projects around the home. They also can be caused by injuries.
Leg problems may be minor or serious. They 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. That's 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 being too active or by the rapid growth of bone and muscle that occurs in children.
It may help you better understand leg problems if you know what the bones of the thigh and lower leg look like, as well as the muscles and tendons. Leg problems that aren't related to a specific injury have many causes.
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 fast-growing children and teens. Doctors don't know why children have growing pains. 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've been sitting or standing for long periods of time or during hot or humid weather. Sitting or lying down and propping up 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 varicose veins.
Many medicines can cause problems in the legs. For example, birth control pills and other hormones can increase your risk of blood clots. And water pills (diuretics), heart medicines, and cholesterol-lowering medicines (statins) can cause muscle cramps.
Some leg problems only occur at night.
Most minor leg problems will heal on their own. Home treatment may be all that's needed. But serious leg problems also may occur. They need to be checked by a doctor soon.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Symptoms of infection may include:
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.
Some medicines can cause leg problems. A few examples are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Try the following tips to help relieve minor leg pain, swelling, stiffness, or muscle cramps.
Remove rings, anklets, and any other jewelry that goes around a lower extremity. It will be hard to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.
It's important to rest and protect the affected area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs right away to prevent or reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
Compression, or wrapping the area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because that can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, and swelling in the area below the bandage.
Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.
For 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.
After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat. You can start gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and keep flexibility. Some experts advise switching between heat and cold treatments.
Gently rub sore or pulled muscles to relieve pain. But don't rub or massage a calf that is swollen.
Gentle motion may help with cramps that are brought on by exercise.
Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps.
If you think that your child is having growing pains, try warmth and massage to relieve discomfort in the legs. Don't rub or massage a calf that is swollen.
Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
If you need to use a wrap, cane, or crutches for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineJohn Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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