Few people have never experienced some type of lower leg pain. In most cases, it occurs due to injury, which can be anything from a bruise after banging it against the corner of a coffee table to a break after tumbling down the stairs. You know when you’re injured, suffering a direct blow. A fracture causes unbearable pain due to damaged nerve endings in the tissue lining of the bone. Shin splints can cause quite a bit of pain in your lower leg, something that can happen if you overdue running, jumping, or dancing. In fact, aerobic dancers are among the worst affected, with shin splint rates as high as 22 percent.
While it’s easy to identify the cause of shin and calf pain in many instances, as mentioned above, with others, it may not be so obvious. If you aren’t sure what’s causing yours other than injury, these are the four of the other most common causes.
Sciatica, also known as lumbosacral radiculopathy, is one of the most common reasons for lower leg pain. A problem with the lower back can cause pain in this area due to conditions such as spinal stenosis, or a herniated spinal disk can lead to tension around the spine. Nerves that travel down to the leg can be irritated, causing pain, numbness, cramps, or weakness in the limb. You might feel shock-like pain in other areas, too, such as your lower back or buttocks. Tingling or burning sensations are possible too.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
If a blood clot develops in the leg vein, deep vein thrombosis occurs, which can be a life-threatening condition if it breaks off and travels to your lungs. It can occur if the vein wall is injured, such as during surgery or due to trauma. Sometimes an underlying health condition increases the chances that blood will clot like pregnancy or cancer. Obesity, prolonged hospitalizations, and immobility all raise the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. It can cause pain, cramping, and swelling in the lower leg.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD, is a condition that causes the narrowing of an artery. When walking, jogging, or taking part in other activities, a narrowed artery cannot supply the proper amount of oxygen to the leg muscles, which is why those who have PAD tend to experience lower leg muscle pain that often intensifies with physical activity. You may feel like a cramp in your calf, although the thigh or buttocks can cramp up too. It can also lead to increased sensitivity, wounds that don’t heal, loss of hair near the area of the leg that’s affected, and toenail changes.
The narrowing of an artery is the result of fatty deposit buildup, referred to as atherosclerosis in the walls of the artery. Lifestyle factors such as being sedentary and smoking cigarettes increase the risk of developing PAD, along with a history of certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Certain veins in the leg send blood to the heart through valves, and when those valves are damaged, some of the blood is returned to the legs, causing an increase in blood pressure in the veins, which is referred to as Chronic Venous Insufficiency. This condition causes cramps, swelling, and pain in the lower legs due to damaged valves or veins. It can be caused by medical issues or activities that place pressure on them, such as standing for long periods, pregnancy, or being overweight.