What Causes Foot and Leg Pain?

August 18, 2020
August 18, 2020 Dr Zil

There are many contributing factors to foot and leg pain. Some are quite innocuous; such as aching muscles after an intense leg workout, or sore feet from hours of walking or standing. But some could be serious and may be linked to varicose veins or an underlying circulation issue. So when it comes to the causes of foot and leg pain, it’s important to know when to see your doctor.

Foot and leg pain can originate in the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves and even skin. It can be experienced in the feet, ankles, knees, thighs, back of the legs, and generally in any part of the leg.

Severe or sudden pain, burning, numbness or discomfort in the lower extremities, however, can mean something more serious is going on. In fact, severe pain that doesn’t resolve within a few minutes needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.

Some possible causes of foot and leg pain

  • Blood vessel disorders – conditions such as varicose veins, spider veins and DVT (deep vein thrombosis) can cause severe leg pain, especially after a lengthy car ride or flight.
  • PAD (peripheral artery disease) – a narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to your feet and legs, typically caused by the buildup of plaque or fatty deposits.
  • Electrolyte Imbalance – healthy muscle function requires a well-balanced mix of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. When electrolyte levels fall below normal, it can cause leg pain and cramping.
  • Peripheral neuropathy – foot and leg pain that results when the nerves that transmit messages between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body (including your internal organs) are damaged or diseased. This condition is most commonly associated with alcoholism and diabetes.
  • Back problems – conditions such as spinal stenosis and sciatica can affect the nerves, causing pain to travel from your lower back, down your legs, all the way to your feet.
  • Arthritisosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis cause inflammation in the cartilage, bones and joints, contributing to pain in legs, feet, and even the surrounding muscles.

How to deal with foot and leg pain due to blood vessel disorders

If you’ve been diagnosed with DVT, your doctor will have two primary objectives. One is to prevent the blood clot from getting larger. The other is to make sure the clot doesn’t traverse the circulatory system and end up in your lungs where it can cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Blood clots are typically managed with blood thinners and clot-buster medications.

Painful feet and legs due to the presence of varicose veins

Although not life-threatening in most cases, varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort in your lower extremities. Treating the diseased veins will often alleviate the source of the pain and give you an improved quality of life.

Based on the severity of the disease, your phlebologist (vein specialist) may recommend a number of non-surgical treatment options. These include Sclerotherapy, Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLA) and Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) or VenaSeal vein glue.

It’s possible that your doctor may diagnose your varicose veins as being mild. This means that they don’t require treatment even though they may be causing your feet and legs to become swollen, ache or burn on occasion. They may recommend natural methods to manage your condition.

The best ways to improve your circulatory system naturally

  • Nutrition and supplements – studies show that adding folic acid, flavonoids and grape-seed extract to your diet can improve blood circulation while minimising water retention and bloating. Read more: non-surgical options for managing varicose veins.
  • Get more active – moderate exercise every day such as yoga, swimming, hiking, walking your dog or riding a bike can have a positive effect on your circulatory system.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing – tight pants or high heels may be stylish but they constrict your veins and are terrible for your circulation.
  • Wear compression stockings – these are special garments that promote healthy blood flow by applying pressure on your veins, helping to alleviate swelling and inflammation. Compression stockings are available from The Vein Institute Shop.
  • Relax and put your feet up – this has the dual benefit of calming your down and helping to prevent blood from pooling in your lower legs.

Diagram of a normal functioning vein with healthy vein valves, a varicose vein with damaged vein valves and then an image of how the varicose vein looks when compressed by wearing medical-grade compression stockings.

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call  1300 535 017. Or, make an enquiry via the Contact Us page.