Foot and leg pain can take a variety of forms and can be caused by a number of different injuries and conditions. Some, such as shin splints and muscle strains, are fairly common and are easily diagnosed and cared for at home. However, unfamiliar or chronic foot/leg pain might require a medical professional to properly diagnose and treat the underlying condition. Documentation of factors, such as location of pain, type of pain sensation, frequency of pain and body position when in pain, will help doctors diagnose the injury or underlying condition.
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The hip is the joint where the thigh and pelvis bones meet. Although the human hip is quite resilient, some conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can weaken the area and make it more susceptible to injury, in addition to causing the condition's own pain. The pain of a hip injury is often experienced more in the groin area. The injuries that most often cause pain are conditions that can affect any joint, such as strains, bursitis and tendinitis. However, fractures and dislocations also can occur in the hip.
Pain in the thigh can occur in the muscles, usually in the form of a hamstring pull, or in the actual thighbone (femur). Breaks, fractures, and so forth can occur in the bone as a result of major stress, such as a car accident or sports injury. However, muscle pulls and strains are quite common in the thigh, and they can cause symptoms ranging from mild tightness to severe pain and swelling.
The knee, as a joint, is susceptible to many of the same joint conditions as the hip. However, the knee is much more complex than the hip, with more tiny parts to injure, and therefore more easily injured. Although the bones in the knee might fracture/break, the vast majority of knee injuries are from overuse, stress, hyperextension, and so on, typically resulting in ligament and muscle tears/sprains. A sprain generally causes mild swelling, redness and pain. See a doctor if there is immediate and acute swelling and pain, or if the bones look deformed.
The calf is the back of the lower half of the leg, made up primarily of two large muscles. The leading cause of pain in the calf is muscle strain, often the result of improper stretching prior to exercise. The calf is also somewhat susceptible to circulatory disorders, like venous insufficiency, thrombosis and intermittent claudication, all of which can cause pain, especially throbbing pain.
Shin pain, also referred to as "shin splints," can occur directly over the tibia (shinbone) or to the side/inside. Injuries that cause shin pain include stress fractures, medial stress syndrome and compartment syndrome. Strenuous exercise is a major cause of shin injury/pain. Foot problems, such as overpronation and underpronation, also tend to cause pain in the shin area.
Ankle pain and injuries are very common. Sprains and strains are especially common in the ankle, and they can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to heal. Other conditions that can cause ankle pain include tendinitis, bursitis, gout, infections and a number of types of arthritis. Conditions of the leg and foot can also cause pain to be felt in the ankle.
Foot pain is also extremely common and is usually caused by overuse, by poor-fitting shoes, or by both. Both muscle and ligament strains can occur frequently, especially in those with irregular steps. Overpronation, underpronation and flat feet are all step problems that lead to foot pain. Fractures can also occur in the bone, causing severe pain, and toe breaks are not uncommon.
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