Intermittent Leg Pain

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Leg pain can affect anyone.
Leg pain can affect anyone. (Image: "winter morning shadow-light study" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Flóra (Flóra Soós) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Intermittent leg pain can appear in people of all ages and can be related to a number of causes. Some types of mild pain can be resolved by simply stretching the muscles, applying an ice pack and drinking plenty of water, while other types of pain require attention from a physician.

Features

Leg pain can occur in varying degrees of intensity, from mild annoyance to severe pain that inhibits the ability to walk. The pain may be felt anywhere from the hips to the heels, either in one spot or across the entire leg. The feeling may be sharp, dull, aching, tingling or stabbing. Intermittent leg pain is not constant, but occurs randomly or in intervals.

Identification

A medical professional will be able to make a more accurate diagnosis of the cause of your leg pain after a thorough consultation. The doctor will need to know the specific details of the pain, such as where it occurs, frequency, type of sensation and a description of what alleviates or worsens the pain. You may need to undergo a physical exam or diagnostic test like an MRI or CT scan to get to the root of the problem.

Misconceptions

Symptoms of leg pain can often lead to a misdiagnosis of other ailments. For example, restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sleep-related disorder that includes a burning sensation in the legs, leading to the need to move the legs. Sometimes RLS is mistakenly diagnosed as ADHD or insomnia. Nighttime muscle cramps in the leg can also be a sign of diabetes, though that is not always the case. Men with prostate cancer often experience intermittent leg pain, but leg pain on its own is not necessarily an indication of prostate cancer.

Causes

According to the Mayo Clinic, most intermittent leg pain is a result of immediate or long-term damage to a bone, muscle, ligament or tendon. However, blood clots in the legs, varicose veins and infections can also lead to intermittent leg pain. Additional causes include an ACL injury, broken leg, gout, herniated disc, muscle cramp or shin splints. Lower back problems are particularly likely to contribute to leg pain, even if there is no pain in the lower back.

Warning

If the leg pain is experienced along with other symptoms, it can indicate a more serious medical condition. These other symptoms may be a bowel and/or bladder dysfunction, fever, chills, unexpected weight loss or a gradual weakening of the legs. If you have undergone a traumatic event prior to the symptoms of leg pain, there may also be a connection. Seek medical advice if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

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