Leg Pain When You Walk? Don’t Ignore It

Pain is one of the most common symptoms that accompany a majority of illnesses and diseases. As a symptom, pain can present as either acute or chronic.

Among people with chronic pain, the painful sensations may be consistent at times. According to research, 20.4% of adults in the United States experience chronic pain. Studies generally categorize pain into five levels based on severity. The higher the pain level, the more disabling the symptoms tend to be. 

Pain can manifest in any part of the body. Some people experience pain in their legs while they are walking. The pain may also be present during physical exercises, such as running or swimming.

It is vital to note leg pain when walking and standing, as it could indicate an underlying problem. This post provides a detailed overview of leg pain causes and methods for relieving the symptoms. 

What Is Leg Pain?

When experiencing leg pain, the symptoms may affect various parts of the lower extremities. Some people experience pain symptoms in the glutes and upper leg area. In other cases, the pain may instead radiate toward the calves and lower leg.

When legs pain more when walking, it may be a sign of injury to the internal tissue. This type of problem may sometimes resolve itself. There are, however, cases where medical intervention will be required. 

Pain can affect different parts of the legs. Muscle tissue, nerves, joints, and bone tissue can all be injured. Being able to differentiate between pain affecting various tissues in the body is important. This is an initial step in understanding the cause behind leg pain and taking appropriate action. 

Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain refers to symptoms that affect muscle tissue, as well as joints and bones. This is a very common element that can be affected when experiencing pain. There are several reasons why the musculoskeletal system of the body may develop pain. 

Several conditions can affect the musculoskeletal system. The presence of these conditions can lead to the development of inflammation and pain. A person may also experience discomfort in their legs when the musculoskeletal system is affected. There may also be stiffness, as well as a decreased range of motion. 

Since muscle tissue is active during walking, the pain symptoms may be more prominent when muscles are used. This does not only include walking, but also running and other activities. 

Neurological Pain

Neurological pain refers to conditions that cause problems with nerves in the body. Nerves act as communicators. When a nerve is pinched, it may cause a patient to experience pain symptoms. Some conditions cause damaged nerves in the legs. In such a scenario, pain symptoms are also likely to develop. This type of pain tends to be present during periods of resting as well. The pain may sometimes increase in intensity when the person is walking, running, or standing. 

Vascular Pain

Another type of leg pain relates to the vascular system. This can cause pain in both the lower and the upper leg. Pain levels may increase when a person walks or goes for a run. A number of varicose and vascular diseases have been identified. Many of these can affect the lower extremities. In this situation, blood vessels in the legs are affected. Inflammation is common with vascular pain, which can cause an aggravation of symptoms experienced. 

Types Of Leg Pain

It is the area where the pain is felt to consider and the type of pain. Different types of pain can develop in the legs. Some types of lower leg pain will remain consistent but may feel aggravated when the person is active. 

There are three main types of leg pain that medical professionals use to assess a situation. The specific symptoms with each may differ. It is crucial for the patient to understand these types. This knowledge will allow the individual to better understand whether or not the pain is something to worry about. 

We will consider some common types of leg pain that a person may experience below.

  • Leg cramps: One of the most common types would be cramps affecting the legs. This is usually a type of musculoskeletal pain. When a leg cramp develops, it means muscles in the lower extremities have gone into a spasm. Spasm causes stiffness and discomfort. A muscle cramp can be very sore at times. It may develop during physical activity or afterward.

  • DVT: A term that is used to describe a blood clot that develops within the deeper veins found within the lower extremities. When a blood clot forms, there may be swelling in the affected area. A single side of the patient’s leg will be affected. The area may also be hot to the touch. The DVT develops when the person stands up or when they walk and may occur after an extended period of sitting. 

  • Fractures: Another type of leg pain comes from fractures. Sometimes, these fractures are not significant in severity. In such a scenario, it is referred to as stress fractures. There are cases where the fracture is more severe, which can cause disabling complications. Repetitive stress can cause fractures. The fracture can sometimes be visible. There may be a deforming of the leg. Swelling and bruising can be seen in the affected region. 

  • Hamstring strain: When the hamstring region is affected by trauma, it may lead to a strain. This type of injury will usually affect tendons or muscle tissue in the area. The tissue may simply be stretched. In some cases, however, tearing of muscle fibers or tendons occurs. This type of leg pain can also be referred to as a muscle strain.

  • Sciatic Pain: A condition often referred to as sciatica can also cause leg pain. In this case, the sciatic nerve is pressurized. This can be due to the nerve being pinched. The pain will often start in the hip region. It can lead to hip pain. The pain then radiates downward. Sciatic nerve pain can sometimes radiate all the way to a patient’s foot. 

  • PAD: A type of leg pain that is characterized by reduced blood flow. When there is insufficient blood circulation in the legs, a number of complications can develop. In some situations, this can lead to fatal complications. 
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What Causes Leg Pain When Walking?

There are many factors to be considered when looking at why legs pain when walking. Some causes are more serious than others. Individuals with this type of pain should ensure they are acknowledged about common causes. The person would be able to consider their own lifestyle and determine if they can identify the potential cause. 

We will talk about some of the most common reasons for leg pain below:

  • Sports Injury: A study revealed that at least 3.5 million sports-related injuries are reported in the United States each year. An injury during sport usually involves trauma to the legs. This can lead to several types of injuries. With a sports injury, knee pain is common. The leg muscle may also be torn due to a strain, leading to pain and inflammation. 

  • Arthritis: A relatively common disease that causes leg pain is known as arthritis. This term refers to a family of conditions, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The disease affects joints in the body. This condition can affect the hip joint, knee joint, and other areas of the body. Both knee and hip arthritis can cause leg pain. 

  • Peripheral Artery Disease: A vein disease that can cause inflammatory symptoms throughout the body, including the legs. This condition has a strong connection to a person’s risk of a stroke or heart attack. The blood vessel walls become filled with plaque, which reduces blood flow. High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol are all potential causes. 

  • Diabetes: Diabetic patients often find that they suffer multiple problems with their lower extremities. Diabetes causes a complication referred to as diabetic neuropathy. This condition involves damage to nerves. Oxygen supply to nerves is reduced, which causes this damage. A tingling sensation may accompany the pain in the legs. Numbness is another feeling that people report with diabetic neuropathy. 

  • Shin Splints: A type of injury that is generally associated with calf pain. Thigh pain is also possible. In some people, aching legs are experienced in more than just the calf region. In this situation, the shin bone suffers from inflammation. The condition can cause severe pain when a person walks. 

Other potential causes that have also been linked to leg pain when walking:

  • Tendinitis

  • Plantar fasciitis

  • Broken bones

  • Varicose veins

  • Chronic venous insufficiency 

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis

  • Chronic exertional compartment syndrome

Talk To Your Doctor About Leg Pain When Walking

There are times when leg pain when walking is a sign of something serious. Conditions like intermittent claudication, venous insufficiency, and peripheral artery disease all require medical treatment. When a person fails to get the right treatment for these conditions, serious complications can sometimes develop. 

With this in mind, it is important to note when the pain is not caused by something as simple as a muscle strain. In cases of chronic venous insufficiency, compartment syndrome, and deep vein thrombosis, the patient should ensure the doctor makes an appropriate diagnosis. The doctor can also provide the patient with the relevant drugs to assist in managing the condition. 

One example of how leg pain may be a sign of something serious comes in the form of atherosclerosis. If a patient has atherosclerosis in the leg, it often means other parts of the body are affected too. Those individuals who have peripheral artery disease in the leg maybe six times more likely to experience a stroke or a heart attack. 

When there is no apparent cause or the pain is severe, the patient should consult a doctor. A number of tests can be done to help the doctor understand why pain is experienced. This may include a physical examination, as well as imaging tests. If the infection is suspected, a doctor may request blood tests too. 

How To Relieve Leg Pain

Treatment and remedies for leg pain differ from one case to the next. In some situations, a person might be able to provide themselves relief at home. There are, however, cases where medical treatment is essential. 

When it comes to relieving leg pain, the first step is to consider the cause. Considering the symptoms experienced is a good area to begin. This will allow a person to understand whether leg pain might be caused by something serious. In such a case, an appointment with a doctor would be highly advisable. In some situations, leg pain may be caused by a severe underlying health problem – in which case emergency treatment may be required. 

In milder cases where the patient suffers an injury that does not cause serious damage, home treatments may be useful. A few remedies can be done at home to help reduce the severity of leg pain. Some of these strategies are also useful for treating inflammation and enhancing flexibility. 

These home remedies can be considered if leg pain or cramps are not too severe:

  • RICE remains a highly effective home remedy for relieving pain from minor injuries. The RICE strategy includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The person should reduce strenuous activities and try to rest the affected leg. Ice can be used to help relieve inflammation and block pain. Compression may also assist with inflammation, as well as pain. Keeping the leg elevated is another useful strategy that forms part of the RICE method. 

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be another useful option. Most of these drugs can be purchased without a prescription. The over-the-counter options will provide effective relief for minor injuries. Acetaminophen is a good example of an OTC drug that may help reduce swelling and pain in the legs.

  • When a leg is cramping, the affected leg should be straightened. The person should sit down with their leg in this position and use their hand to reach down to their toe. The toe should be pulled inward toward the person’s body. Some people find that walking on their heels helps to make a recovery from the cramp faster. 

Once the pain in the leg subsides, it is vital for a person to implement preventative measures. Numerous things can be done to reduce the risk of leg cramps and pain. The most effective prevention strategies depend on the specific reasons why leg pain developed in the first place.

Hydration is a crucial element in avoiding leg cramps. Eight glasses of water or more should be consumed every day. This helps to ensure minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes can be effectively distributed throughout the body. Stretching prior to an exercise session is also important, as well as afterward. 

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Pain in the legs is common among the general population. In some cases, the pain may be more severe during physical activity. When experiencing leg pain while walking, it is essential to ensure the symptom does not go unchecked.

There are causes for both lower and upper leg pain that can sometimes be serious. Home remedies and medical treatments are available, depending on the cause behind the symptoms. 

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  1. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (2018) Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults – the United States, 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6146950
  2. Journal of Pain. (2016) Estimates of Pain Prevalence and Severity in Adults: United States, 2012. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562413/
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. (2008) When walking makes your legs hurt. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/when-walking-makes-your-legs-hurt
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sports Injury Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sports-injuries/sports-injury-statistics
  5. Versus Arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA). [online] Available at: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/osteoarthritis/

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