Pain in the legs can occur as a result of conditions that affect bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, or skin. Typically, the pain is a result of tissue inflammation that is caused by injury or disease. Either injury or chronic disease can cause inflammation to any of the tissues of the leg and lead to leg pain. Since the leg contains a number of different structures and tissue types, a wide variety of conditions and injuries can cause leg pain.
Knee pain is a common problem that can originate in any of the bony structures compromising the knee joint (femur, tibia, fibula), the kneecap (patella), or the ligaments and cartilage (meniscus) of the knee. Knee pain can affect people of all ages, and home remedies can be helpful unless it becomes severe.
Baker's Cyst in the Knee
Baker cysts are not uncommon and can be caused by virtually any cause of joint swelling (arthritis). The excess joint fluid (synovial fluid) bulges to the back of the knee to form the Baker cyst. The most common type of arthritis associated with Baker cysts is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis. Baker cysts can occur in children with juvenile arthritis of the knee. Baker cysts also can result from cartilage tears (such as a torn meniscus), rheumatoid arthritis, and other knee problems.
- A Baker cyst is swelling caused by fluid from the knee joint protruding to the back of the knee.
- Baker cysts are common and can be caused by virtually any cause of joint swelling (arthritis).
- A Baker cyst may not cause symptoms or be associated with knee pain and/or tightness behind the knee, especially when the knee is extended or fully flexed.
- Baker cysts can rupture and become complicated by spread of fluid down the leg between the muscles of the calf (dissection).
- Baker cysts can be treated with medications, joint aspiration and cortisone injection, and surgical operation, usually arthroscopic surgery.
Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.
Compartment syndrome causes severe pain that does not go away when you take pain medicine or raise the affected area. In more severe cases, symptoms may include:
- Decreased sensation
- Numbness and tingling
- Paleness of skin
- Severe pain that gets worse
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tear
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is a wide, thick band of tissue that runs down the inner part of the knee from the thighbone (femur) to a point on the shinbone (tibia) about four to six inches from the knee.
The MCL’s main function is to prevent the leg from extending too far inward, but it also helps keep the knee stable and allows it to rotate.
If the medial collateral ligament has been damaged or torn, you will usually have:
- Pain, which can range from mild to severe, depending on how serious the injury is
- Tenderness along the inside of the knee
- A feeling that the injured knee may give way under stress or may lock or catch.
Loose Bodies of the Knee
It is important to remove loose bodies early to avoid cartilage damage.
What are loose bodies?
Loose bodies in the knee joint are small fragments of cartilage or bone that move freely around the knee in joint fluid, or synovium. They can hinder the joint moment by getting caught in flexion and extension movements. The loose bodies can vary in size from a few millimeters (such as the size of a small pill) to a few centimeters (the size of a quarter). The fragments can lead to damage to the articular cartilage, causing osteoarthritis.
Meniscal Injuries & Tears
Like a lot of knee injuries, a meniscus tear can be painful and debilitating. Unfortunately, it’s quite common. In fact, a meniscal tear is one of the most frequently occurring cartilage injuries of the knee.
So what is the meniscus? It’s a piece of cartilage in your knee that cushions and stabilizes the joint. It protects the bones from wear and tear. But all it takes is a good twist of the knee to tear the meniscus. In some cases, a piece of the shredded cartilage breaks loose and catches in the knee joint, causing it to lock up.
Meniscus tears are common in contact sports like football as well as noncontact sports requiring jumping and cutting such as volleyball and soccer. They can happen when a person changes direction suddenly while running, and often occur at the same time as other knee injuries, like an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Meniscus tears are a special risk for older athletes since the meniscus weakens with age. More than 40% of people 65 or older have them.
Knee bursitis is inflammation of a bursa located near your knee joint. Abursa is a small fluid-filled, pad-like sac that reduces friction and cushions pressure points between your bones and the tendons and muscles near your joints.
Knee Ligament Injuries & Tears
Ligament injuries in the knee – such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — are dreaded by professional and amateur athletes alike. They can be painful and debilitating. They can even permanently change your lifestyle.
But there’s good news. While an ACL injury or other ligament damage once ended the career of many an athlete, treatment has become much more successful.
Knee fracture refers to fractures of any of the parts of bone involved in the joint itself. This includes fractures of:
- Patella: accounts for 1% of all fractures, most common in ages 20-50
- Femoral condyles: these usually fracture when the knee is stressed.
- Tibial eminence: caused by accidents, such as a blow to the proximal tibia when the knee is flexed, or if the knee is hyperextended during an accident. Usually seen in patients aged 8-14.
- Tibial tuberosity: more common in men than in women, and in younger patients rather than adults; often seen in athletes, especially those involved in jumping sports.
- Tibial plateau: compressive fractures of the articular surface, typically from extreme force such as fall from a height or being hit by a vehicle, although in patients with osteoporosis minimal force may be needed.
- Segond’s fracture: this is an avulsion fracture of the lateral tibial condyle immediately beyond the articular surface with the knee. Although not directly a part of the knee joint, it occurs in association with tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial meniscus and lateral capsular ligament, and is thus included here.
Knee fracture can result in neurovascular compromise or compartment syndrome. Soft tissue infection or osteomyelitis may occur with open fractures. Other complications include non-union, delayed union, osteoarthritis, avascular necrosis, fat embolism, and thrombophlebitis.