The leg, and it's various joints, like the hip, the knee and the ankle, can be a source of injury and pain for many people.
It's hardly surprising that leg pain, hip pain, knee pain or ankle pain affects so many people - we put our legs through a lot! There's also a lot of misunderstandings about how these joints work, and what can be done about leg pain or pain from the muscles or joints of the leg. At State 11, we have the experience to help you recover from problems with your hip, knee, ankle or leg muscles.
What causes leg pain?
Leg pain can be caused by a variety of different issues - and not all of them are based in the leg or linked to muscles; some can be caused by issues in the back or spine.
Some of the main causes of leg pain include:
Compression of the spinal nerve: irritated or compressed nerve roots in the mid (lumbar) or low (sacral) spine can cause nerve pain (medically known as "radiculopathy") in the leg (often referred to as sciatica) in the leg or even down to the foot. Although sciatica is often known as a condition that has to be lived with, we've helped people with sciatica using RAPID NeuroFascial Reset to great effect.
Compression of the spinal cord: although this can sound very scary, it's quite common in people over the age of 50 and often can occur without any pain. Although it can be difficult to prevent the causes of compression of the spinal cord (most commonly osteoarthritis), the symptoms (if there are any) can be managed well with exercise and strengthening the back, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping active. At State 11, we can help with muscle aches and pains, although we're not able to reverse osteoarthritis.
Conditions linked to blood vessels: blockages to the arteries or veins (blood clots) can result in decreased blood supply to the leg, which turn can cause leg pain or numbness. Most people have heard of Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is the most well known type of blockage (DVT). With a DVT, there will often be quite visible symptoms, such as warmth or reddening to the leg, hard, swollen veins and discolouration. DVTs are a medical emergency and if you suspect you have one, you should call 999 or go to A&E.
Problems with the pelvis or hip: issues such as sacroiliac joint dysfunction or osteoarthritis in the hip can cause leg pain. If nerves are irritated as a result, this can cause numbness to accompany the pain. Problems with the gluteal muscles or piriformis muscles, can also cause pain that travels down the leg.
Problems with the metabolism or endocrine systems: conditions such as diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause muscle and nerve damage that in turn result in pain or numbness.
Cauda Equina Syndrome: although rare, this condition is very serious. Known as CES, it can occur when the spinal nerves in the lower back become compressed, and this can result in bilateral (both legs) leg pain or numbness, numbness between the legs (known as "saddle numbness") and weakness. You can find more information on CES here. If you suspect you may haver this, please call 999 or 111 or visit A&E and let them know you are concerned about CES. At State 11, if we suspect CES may be behind your leg pain, we will tell you and direct you to seek urgent medical help without charge.
Strain, exercise, dehydration, work issues: leg, knee and ankle pain can have simple causes - such as delayed on set muscle soreness (sometimes called DOMS) after exercise, a sudden increase in activity, unsuitable footwear or even just not drinking enough fluid.
What causes knee pain?
Knee pain can be causes by a variety of issues. The most common of these is a simple strain or sprain of the knee (after all, it is just a joint) caused by overuse, over-stretching or twisting the joint too far in the wrong direction, which can happen during badly performed exercise or a stumble or fall.
Other causes of knee pain include :
Tendonitis: which will often feel like a pain below the knee cap, and can often follow running or jumping - this is sometimes known as "runners knee".
Torn tendon, meniscus or ligament: often presenting as instability, issues with weight bearing or difficulty straightening the leg. In cases of a severe tear, a "popping" sound might be heard during the injury. Low grade tears can often heal themselves, and in some cases ligament damage can be left if the muscles in the leg are strengthened. Meniscus tears will often resolve themselves after a time, but in severe cases may need surgery.
Dislocated kneecap: difficult to miss this injury generally, as it will often follow an injury and will resort in the kneecap looking like it has changed shape. The kneecap is simply a bone in a ligament, and it can be easily put back into the correct place, but this should be done in a hospital unless you've a regularly dislocating kneecap, in which case you may well feel confident enough to "pop" it back into place yourself.
Pain, stiffness, swelling in the knees: in older people, this can often be caused by osteoarthritis. At State 11, we can't reverse osteoarthritis, but we can help with the symptoms, and even show you how to deal with any flare-ups at home so that you don't need to come and see us as often! If swelling in the knee occurs in a younger person (teenager to early twenties), then it can be a symptom of a rare condition called Osgood-Schlatter's disease, which is an inflammation of the ligament just below the knee. This is generally resolved with rest but should be diagnosed by a GP.
Reddening of the knee with pain made worse by bending or kneeling: this is generally bursitis, and can be painful, as well as a condition that often is beyond sports massage therapists. At State 11, RAPID Neurofascial Reset allows us to help bursitis, although it may be necessary to have more than one appointment.
Sudden, severe pain coupled with reddening of the knee: this is often gout or septic arthritis. Septic arthritis is a serious infection and requires urgent medical treatment - you can read more about it on the NHS site.
Although there are many causes of leg, knee or ankle pain, most are not serious. If you're concerned you may have suffered a serious injury, it is important to get medical advice in order to gain a positive diagnosis and correct treatment.
Once you know it’s not a serious issue, you should protect your leg from undue stress – so no trampolining! Resting your leg means not carrying out too much activity. We don’t recommend complete rest and immobility as this can slow recovery (this is known as “active rest” and it’s important to make sure you don’t put too much stress or weight through the joint).
Icing the painful area is common advice, however, the most up to date research into icing injuries shows that it can slow recovery because the inflammation – the swelling – is necessary as the body tries to rush blood and healing cells to the area. Icing can also cause damage to muscle cells, so it needs to be an individual choice between a faster, but potentially more painful healing period or a slower, less painful healing period.
Compression is also common advice, and many people achieve this using a compression bandage. This should only be done whilst the leg isn’t elevated, and only for the first seventy-two hours. It shouldn’t cause pins and needles or any loss of feeling – if it does, it’s too tight! In our studio, we would look to use Rock Tape (a kinesiology tape) which is supportive, offers pain relief through neurological feedback but also allows some movement. Rock Tape can also help reduce swelling (lessening the need for both icing and the next common piece of advice, elevation).
Elevating the leg is generally suggested because it reduces the flow of blood, which in turn reduces swelling. However, as mentioned, you need blood flow to the area, and you definitely don’t want to be reducing the blood flow to any damaged ligaments, as this can slow healing. Once again, it is a personal choice between speed of healing and discomfort or swelling.
Once the first few days have past, your leg pain is out of the “acute” phase and into the “sub acute” phase. This is when mobilisation and movement work can be started by a trained soft tissue therapist. This could include work both above and below the site of the injury (for instance, with sciatica, it is necessary to work the gluteal area rather than further down the leg where you may feel the pain. This phase of treatment is crucial to ensure you return to full function and prevent future injury.
We help a lot of people with a lot of different physical problems at State 11. This little video shows a client who came to see us with sciatica (yes, it can affect younger people as well) and the results we achieved for them.
Getting treatment at State 11 Soft Tissue Therapy, Spalding
At State 11 in Spalding, we use a variety of advanced techniques to help people in pain or discomfort.
We are injury and pain specialists, and do not offer relaxation or "spa" style massages.
The techniques we use for reducing your pain include RAPID NeuroFascial Reset - an advanced Canadian technique devised by two Canadian therapists frustrated at not being able to make rapid, lasting change for their clients. This is a clothed technique that does not require removal of clothing, or the use of any waxes or oils. We are the only clinic offering RAPID in Lincolnshire.
We may also use sports massage techniques, kinesiology taping, fascial cupping or Instrument Assisted Massage.