When we discuss leg pain, we normally discuss 2 different forms of the pain: pain related to musculoskeletal damage or pain that occurs due to damage or injury in the nervous system. During this month on Nevada Inside Pain, we gave an in-depth look to both of these types of leg pain.
Musculoskeletal pain involves any type of pain that develops in the body’s tendons, ligaments, or muscles. Leg pain associated with this can range from acute, moderate amounts of pain to long-term chronic cases of leg pain that eventually affect a person’s overall quality of life.
2 major pain conditions that can lead to musculoskeletal leg pain are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. With their common names, these 2 conditions are often confused. Both of them involve damage to the bones, thus their “osteo-” root word. Osteoarthritis, however, is a wear-and-tear condition that is the result of damage to the cartilage within joints. Osteoarthritis leads to a decreased range of motion and pain in the affected areas. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, is a condition where the bone itself deteriorates over time. Bones will actually develop sponge-like pores (the root of the 2nd part of this word) that eventually cause the bone to become fragile and weak.
While these conditions are associated with age, there are ways to slow their progress.
For osteoporosis, in particular, you can help slow or prevent the loss of bone density with a few lifestyle changes. These include:
- Getting plenty of calcium
- Getting plenty of vitamin D
- Eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients
- Abstaining from smoking
- Drinking alcohol only in moderation
Another common foot pain issue can also be prevented: heel spurs.
Heels spurs, a condition where plantar fasciitis causes abnormal amounts of calcium to be built up on the heel, can result in major pain. By taking appropriate care of your feet, stretching, and wearing the correct shoes, you can help prevent or slow the progress of this condition.
Neuropathic pain is normally a much more complex form of pain to understand and diagnose. This pain results from nerve damage that usually develops at the same time as tissue injury.
The most common form of neuropathic leg pain is peripheral neuropathy. This pain usually develops in the legs and is associated with diabetes. Neuropathic leg pain can also develop due to:
- Kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cancer or cancer treatment
Another form of neuropathic leg pain is restless leg syndrome. Researchers estimate that as much as 10% of the U.S. population suffers from this condition. Patients with restless leg syndrome report creeping, itching, tingling, aching, and shocking sensations within the legs.
While there is no cure for this condition, experts recommend the following to help limit symptoms:
- If a medication is causing restless leg syndrome, consulting with a doctor to make changes or stop the medication
- Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol
- Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
- Sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet room
- Removing computers, TVs, and phones from the bedroom
- Practicing mental activities before bed, like Sudoku or a crossword puzzle
Fibromyalgia–another common pain condition–is inadequately defined by musculoskeletal or neuropathic categories of leg pain.
Researchers still don’t know the exact mechanisms or causes of this condition. Fibromyalgia pain is a widespread form of pain that’s felt in the tendons, muscles, and ligaments, leading a person to classify it as musculoskeletal leg pain. However, as the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association notes, this pain is likely amplified by processing issues within the nervous system.
In either case, there are forms of leg pain that are associated with fibromyalgia. These include:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Small-fiber polyneuropathy (SFPN)
- Tender point pain felt on the inside of each knee and on the hip just behind the hipbone
On Inside Nevada Pain, we discussed these fibromyalgia tender points in more detail, along with a look at the Symptom Intensity Scale that is now used to help doctors diagnose fibromyalgia. These 9 tender points are in the following regions:
- Low cervical
- Second rib
- Trapezius muscle
- Supraspinatus muscle
- Lateral epicondyle
- Greater trochanter
Treating leg pain
If you did read these posts, you likely noticed a defining characteristic in all of them: many forms of leg pain can be prevented, slowed, or relieved through simple lifestyle changes and alternative therapies.
At Nevada Pain, we do know that interventional and pharmaceutical pain treatments are often needed. However, we aim to use these approaches alongside other simpler and less invasive options. It’s part of our comprehensive approach to pain management.
This month we looked at 2 alternative forms of therapy for leg pain.
Biofeedback training is a noninvasive form of therapy that helps retrain the mind to control involuntary reactions to pain or other stimuli in order to create more desirable outcomes. Biofeedback training has proven especially useful for treating phantom limb syndrome and knee pain.
Leg pain caused by muscle cramps, osteoarthritis, and sciatica may find some relief through the use of supplements. Supplements that can help with leg pain include those containing:
- Glucosamine sulfate
If you’re interested in incorporating more of these nutrients in your meals, consider the potassium- and magnesium-rich All Green Shake or a Gingered Pineapple Brown Rice recipe that can help fight osteoarthritis!
In addition to our posts on these 2 primary types of leg pain, Nevada Inside Pain has also covered recent pain news and research topics that have come out in the last few months.
The most interesting topics we discussed were:
- A look at how you can begin playing soccer safely after the excitement of the World Cup
- New research into the genetic components of pain
- A recent report on the alarming rates of opioid use and chronic pain in the U.S. military
Do you suffer from leg pain? Which treatment options have you pursued for it?
Image by Alisha via Flickr