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What are the Most Common Causes of Lower Leg Pain?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Lower leg pain can be caused by several problems. The leg contains muscles, tendons, joints and bones, all of which are susceptible to injury or disorders. Overuse, nutrient deficiency and injury create a backdrop for the most common causes of lower leg pain. The treatment depends on the cause.

Shin splints are a condition commonly associated with lower leg pain. They are caused by running or walking. The medical term for shin splints is "medial tibial stress syndrome." The connective tissue from the bone to the muscles is also involved.

Symptoms of shin splints include pain on the lower leg along the inner region. Some mild swelling might accompany the tenderness. Early in the progression, the pain stops when the activity ceases, but as time moves on, the pain might become constant.

Home remedies for shin splints include ice and rest. Medical care is needed if the pain occurs from a fall, if the skin is red and feels hot to the touch, if it hurts even at rest or if the pain is getting worse with time. Prevention of shin splints includes wearing supportive shoes, wearing arch supports and incorporating low-impact exercise, such as swimming or biking.

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A tibia stress fracture is another common cause for lower leg pain. The tibia is a major bone in the lower leg, running from the ankle to the knee. This fracture is caused by repeated trauma to the lower leg. Tibia stress fractures occur in healthy bones as well as bones diseased by osteoporosis, so the cause of the fracture must be determined. The fracture can occur anywhere along the tibia bone.

Pain in the lower leg can be the first symptom of a tibia stress fracture. Causes for such injury include falling, accidents and repeated trauma, such as training to run a marathon. A lower leg cast is the most common form of treatment, though for more serious fractures, a metal rod can be surgically placed alongside the bone to strengthen it.

A leg cramp, sometimes referred to as a charlie horse, is a common cause of lower leg pain. Leg cramps are caused by contractions of the leg muscle in the calf. The cramping can be severe, and in some cases, it can cause the fibers of the leg muscles to tear. The cause of leg cramping was unknown as of 2010, but dehydration, low levels of carbohydrates or low levels of sodium and potassium are all thought to be contributing factors.

Unless there was a tearing of muscle fiber, there is no aftercare needed for leg cramps. Fiber tears are treated through physical therapy. During a cramp, massaging the calf can reduce pain by increasing blood flow. Though not medically proven, many people believe that pinching the upper lip provides instant relief. For repeated cramping episodes, one should visit a doctor to determine whether there is a need for increased potassium or sodium in the diet.

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