Leg Pain

Leg pain plagues many people, especially women. It often is connected to banal chronic venous disorders, but sometimes it is a sign of serious conditions that can threaten the existence of entire affected limb. This article is dedicated to most common and to most serious pathological states.


Muscle cramps

This condition affects especially women and it is common cause is lack of magnesium. Muscle cramps are often accompanied by unpleasant pain. It is not a serious condition; the treatment consists of massages and possibly supplements containing magnesium.

Chronic venous insufficiency

Impaired function of venous system of the lower extremities is usually associated with heavy legs feeling, leg pain and possibly swelling. Superficial veins are usually extended and form so-called varices. The treatment involves administration of drugs and use of elastic compression stockings. Severe forms of chronic venous insufficiency can lead to leg ulcers that can be also quite painful.

Deep vein thrombosis

Blood clots in deep veins of lower extremities manifest with pain, swelling and possibly a dark purple coloration of the affected limb. This condition should be treated with anticoagulant medication and its most serious complication is acute pulmonary embolism.

Baker's cyst

Baker's cyst is a lesion in popliteal area (behind knee) surrounded by a membrane. It is often connected with chronic local inflammation that often accompanies knee injuries and other inflammatory diseases of joints. The cyst causes pain of the knee and sometimes even calf pain.

Peripheral artery disease of lower limbs

This disease is caused by the process of atherosclerosis that leads to arterial narrowing. Leg pain is referred to as claudication. Claudication occurs when walking and quickly disappears at rest. Pain is caused by limb ischemia when increased need of oxygen can not be fulfilled by narrowed arteries. It is necessary to treat ischemic limb disease comprehensively, because its most severe forms can end by limb amputation.

Sudden arterial closure

This is potentially a fatal condition for affected extremity caused by a sudden blockage of artery by a blood clot. The artery may be already narrowed by atherosclerotic process, or it may be completely healthy. The blood clot can occur directly at the site of closure or it can originate elsewhere in the body and brought by blood stream into lower extremity (such “travelling” blood clot is called an embolus). Sudden closure of a limb artery usually manifests as cruel pain, pallor and possibly limb numbness or paralysis. Peripheral pulse is weak or impalpable. This state must be urgently solved by special medications or by endovascular or surgical intervention.


This is a whole group of disorders that have in common nerve damage. Nerves in lower extremities are the longest nerves in our body and therefore most sensitive to damage. The causative factors may be chronic alcohol consumption, diabetes and malignant diseases. Polyneuropathy manifests by various unpleasant sensations such as pain, burning or tingling sensations in extremities. Most peripheral parts of extremities (hands, feet) are most strongly affected. Electromyography is the best examination as it informs us about nerve - muscle electric impulses conduction. We try to treat underlying causes and protect nerve fibers by vitamin administration. Effect of vitamins is however disputed.


This infection is caused by streptococci bacteria. Affected leg is swollen, red and painful. General symptoms of infection are often present, such as high fever, fatigue and muscle pain. Symptoms mimic deep vein thrombosis and it is appropriate to perform an ultrasound examination to exclude venous blood clots. The infection is treated by antibiotics, but it has a tendency to recur.

Restless leg syndrome

This neurological disorder can be very annoying. It manifests as very unpleasant feelings of restlessness and pain in lower extremities that force the patient to walk. Movement brings certain relief.


Various injuries, pulled muscles, ligament damage and fractures are source of leg pain as well.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources