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Lower Leg Pain

Lower leg pain has as many causes as treatments. “Shin Splints” is often used to describe pain between the knee and the ankle. This term has been used so much that it has lost any definition of what the problem really is. Anyone who has a problem with lower leg pain really needs to have it properly evaluated by a professional.

Proper evaluation of the problem begins with finding out what structure is causing this pain in the lower leg, as well as why is this structure hurting. For every injury there is an underlying cause. If you don’t eliminate the cause of the problem, then the pain will always return.

The following information may help you understand some of the causes and treatment options you may have. By understanding the problem you can make logical choices in your treatment plan.


  • BODY MECHANICS: How mechanically efficient your body is during movement can change the stress to your lower leg. Things that increase stress include leg length differences, bow-legged. knock-knees, high rigid arches, or low flat arches.
  • SHOES: How well a shoe absorbs shock, supports the heel, mid-foot, and forefoot will affect how the lower leg works. Worn-out shoes, poorly designed shoes, and wearing inappropriate shoes for the activity can all cause problems.
  • STRENGTH: There are more than nine muscles that originate in the lower leg and cross the ankle to provide support. Overworked muscles that are weak will break down and fail to support the foot and ankle.
  • FLEXIBILITY: The ability of these same nine muscles to stretch when stressed can also cause breakdowns in the structure.
  • CONDITIONING: The ability of the muscles to contract over a period of time (endurance) will affect how well they support the structure.
  • CHANGES IN SURFACE: Moving activity from hard to soft surfaces, or soft to hard surfaces, will change how the leg moves and the stresses on it.
  • CHANGES IN TECHNIQUE: Running on your toes has a much different stress on the lower leg than running heel-to-toe; running straight is different than changing directions.
  • OVERUSE: All structures in the body have a point of failure. If you exceed the breaking point of a structure it will fail.
  • CIRCULATION PROBLEMS: It is rare, but conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, systemic infections, and compartment syndromes can cause lower leg pain.
  • LOW BACK: Disc bulges and herniations putting pressure on the nerves in the lower back can give you lower leg pain.

Define what structure is the pain coming from? See your doctor or other health care professional for a complete evaluation to determine what structure is involved.

  • Bone
  • Tendon
  • Muscle
  • Nerve
  • Ligament
  • Arteries/Veins

Correct the Cause:

  • Strengthening
  • Activity Type
  • Stretching
  • Activity Duration
  • Endurance/Conditioning
  • Activity Surface
  • Shoes
  • Activity Intensity
  • Mechanics
Treatment Choices:
  • Ice
  • Ultrasound
  • Ice Massage
  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Contrast Bath
  • Oral Medications
  • Whirlpool Cold/Warm
  • REST!

- Have your pain evaluated by a professional
- Follow the treatment recommendations
- Warm up before activity
- Ice after activity
- Ignore the problem
- Use ice to numb the area before activity
- Wear shoes that are broken down or inappropriate for your foot type
- Continue activity with pain
- Push through pain

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