Overuse and Wear and Tear
Think about how many miles you’ve put on your legs. They’ve carried you around for your whole life. The older we get, the more wear and tear our bodies have undergone.
The Mayo Clinic says that overuse and wear and tear are some of the top reasons we experience pain symptoms in our legs.
This wear and tear, or overuse of your muscles, ligaments, and bones, can break down the cartilage in your joints. This can cause any number of problems, including osteoarthritis, tendonitis, or an irritated nerve. There are many other overuse injuries not listed here.
Overuse and wear and tear pain are typically chronic and can wax and wane. It may come on gradually and get worse with time.
If you have pain resulting from an injury, the pain could be due to a soft tissue injury in your muscles, tendons, or ligaments. An injury in your lower spine can even cause pain to radiate down in your leg.
Whether you have an injury somewhere in your leg or foot or in your back or hip, the whole leg can experience some degree of discomfort or pain. These can limit the motion of the affected leg. This can result in a lack of good circulating oxygen and nutrients, which can slow down the healing of the leg.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that one in four adults 65 years and older experiences a fall each year. Some of the more common leg injuries are sprains, strains, dislocated joints, and fractures.
It doesn’t take much to experience pain due to an injury. The slightest slip, fall, or twist can cause an injury that results in leg pain.
Blood Vessel Problems or Poor Circulation
Unfortunately, blood vessel issues become more common as you age. As we get older, we have more problems with poor circulation, particularly in our legs.
Poor circulation and blood vessel problems can restrict the blood flow to your legs. Some of the causes of leg pain from blood vessel diseases can be quite serious.
The two major blood vessel problems are peripheral artery disease (PAD) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Peripheral artery disease: PAD can decrease blood supply to your legs and cause the narrowing of your arteries. This means that your legs don’t have well-circulating blood. If you have PAD, you’re more likely to have pain when you’re active. This is because blood isn’t reaching your muscles as it should. If you rest, the pain is likely to go away. However, just because the pain goes away doesn’t mean there isn’t still a problem. It’s instrumental that your legs always get proper blood supply. PAD is more likely in smokers, overweight people, and anyone who has had high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Deep vein thrombosis: Essentially, DVT is a blood clot deep within your vein. It’s more likely to happen when you’ve been inactive, and your blood isn’t circulating well in your legs. The pain may come on gradually or suddenly if you get a blood clot in your leg. Also, your leg could turn blue near where the clot is. DVT is a serious condition. The clot could potentially break and make its way into your lungs. If you suspect that you could have pain related to a blood clot, it’s vital to see your doctor or go to the ER immediately.
- Varicose veins: Varicose veins are often a more superficial problem with the blood vessels in your leg. Nonetheless, they can cause a great deal of leg pain and discomfort. The blood vessels in your legs can also swell and twist. With varicose veins, you can usually see blood vessels through the skin. Varicose vein pain symptoms can be felt as cramping or aching in your legs. Your legs might also feel heavy, throb, burn, or tingle.
Medication Side Effects and Leg Cramps
The older we get, the more medications we tend to take. The National Institute of Health points out that some of these medications can affect the levels of electrolytes, like potassium, in your body. This can result in leg pain symptoms and cramps. For instance, one of the more common drugs doctors prescribe for older people is diuretics. Diuretics remove excess fluid in the body. In doing so, the drugs also can remove essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. This can result in leg cramps and pain. Other medications such as steroids and cholesterol medications are also known for causing leg pain that is more likely to be experienced as a cramp or a charley horse. The pain is more likely to happen at night when you lay down to go to sleep, although it can strike anytime.
Common Illnesses That Result in Leg Pain
If you have diabetes, an electrolyte imbalance, thyroid illness, kidney disease, infection, or arthritis, you may have pain in your legs.
Diabetes can result in leg pain in multiple ways. Diabetics often have a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, which damages the nerves in your legs. If you’ve had high sugar levels for a long time, you’re more likely to have diabetic neuropathy.
A condition called hypothyroidism is a common thyroid condition that can result in painful and stiff joints and muscles. Hypothyroidism causes a slowing down of metabolism in your body. So, it makes sense that your blood will circulate slower and hinder proper functioning in your body.
People who have kidney disease are also likely to have leg pain because your kidneys are less likely to remove the extra fluid that results from your condition. This causes many areas of your body to swell, including your legs.
Any infection in your leg is also likely to cause pain because pain is a common response to infection.
Finally, a hallmark of arthritis is a pain in your joints. The tissues in your bones and joints are damaged with arthritis. Inflammation is also common and irritates nearby nerve signals. You might also feel as though your bones are rubbing together.
Only your doctor can make a diagnosis regarding the cause of your leg pain. From there, he or she can recommend a course of action to treat your condition, which can perhaps reduce your leg pain symptoms.