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Top 5 Reasons Why You Are Suffering from Leg Pain

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Do you experience leg pain when you’re walking, running, or swimming for long period of hours? Can’t you engage in too many sports because your leg and ankle always ache? You shouldn’t ignore signs of leg and ankle pain as they might be telling you something about your overall health condition.

Here are the top reasons why you may be experiencing leg pain.

  1. Muscle cramps

Also known as “charley horse”, muscle cramps are characterized by sudden tightening of the muscles in the lower leg that produces intense pain and discomfort. Leg cramps usually happen when you are tired, stressed, or dehydrated, and can attack anytime of the day – whether you are actively having fun or sleeping.

Cure: When muscle cramps attack, it would help if you gradually stretch the leg that is experiencing pain and gently massage your tensed muscles.

Prevention: To avoid muscle cramps, make sure that you drink plenty of water regularly, do some stretching before exercise, and prevent pushing yourself when you are already tired.

  1. Shin splints

Shin splits are normally on the front of the calf, and is characterized by inflamed muscles and flesh located along the edge of the shin bone. When you have this pain, walking, running, and jumping will be painful. Shin splits happen when you keep doing an activity over and over on hard surfaces, like the ground or the floor. Flat feet and outward feet also cause shin splits.

Cure: When you start to feel shin splits, immediately rest your legs. Ice can help relieve the pain, too, so you may want to perform ice therapy on the affected area. Additionally, anti-inflammatory medicines like naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen can assist in eliminating the pain and inflammation.

Prevention: To avoid shin splits, do not stress or overwork your legs. Do regular stretching and make sure to wear supportive, comfortable shoes. Avoid running on hard surfaces, too.

  1. Tendinitis

Tendinitis, or inflamed Achilles tendon, is pain characterized by discomfort felt in the lower calf and near the back of the heel. Other symptoms include swollen, stretched, or torn tendon. Tendinitis tends to last for longer periods of time, and is due to overworking the calf muscles and too much climbing up and down the stairs.

Cure: To relieve tendinitis, apply ice therapy on the affected area or take in anti-inflammatory medicines. If the pain is too severe, such that you are not able to point your toe downward, you may need to undergo medical treatment such as medicine injection on the inflamed area or surgery to repair the damaged tendon.

Prevention: To avoid tendinitis, walk in moderate pace and do not overwork your feet. When walking or climbing the stairs get tiring, stop and rest for a while. Do regular feet and leg stretches, too.

  1. Varicose veins

These are dark, twisted veins visible on the surface of the skin along the leg area. Pain brought by varicose veins are usually dull, but signifies weak valves and thin vein walls due to frequent and continuous standing.

Cure: Use support stockings to relieve the pain. If it becomes severely painful, you need to consult with your doctor about other types of treatment.

Prevention: Avoid standing for too long. Throughout the day, make sure that you switch between standing and sitting. Moreover, eat foods that strengthen your veins and prevent this type of disease, including fiber-rich foods and foods that contain rutin.

  1. Sciatica

Primarily characterized by narrowed spinal canal, sciatica is caused by arthritis of the spine or herniated disc, both putting pressure on the nerve roots. You know you are suffering from sciatica if you feel the following symptoms:  cramping leg pain, numbness, fatigue, tingling, and weakness. Usually, pain begins at the back and the hips, moving downwards to the legs.

Cure: While rest is the initial treatment for sciatica, pain-relief and anti-inflammatory medications should be taken alongside. Application of cold and heat therapy can also help relieve some of the symptoms. Chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and stretching exercises can be useful for treating sciatica. For severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery or other medical treatments.

Prevention: To prevent sciatica, you have to exercise regularly, observe proper posture, and maintain good body mechanics.

Is your leg pain due to any of the above reasons? Remember, if pain is no longer tolerable and home remedies are not working well to relieve discomfort, consult with your doctor or chiropractor immediately.

What You Need to Know about Sciatica

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The largest single nerve in your body is the sciatic nerve located below the spine in the lower back and extends down to the buttocks, and goes all the way down to the back of each leg. An irritation in the sciatic nerve or compression in the lumbar spine can cause sciatica.

Sciatica, in itself, is not a medical diagnosis, but an indicator of underlying medical condition like herniated disc in the lumbar, spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease.  It describes the symptoms of leg pain that originates from the lower back down to the sciatic nerve located in the back of the leg.

Sciatica, unlike many conditions in the neuromusculoskeletal system, is not caused by injuries or a particular event, but tends to evolve over time. It rarely develops among people below 20 years old. The probability of experiencing sciatica is highest in your 50’s then declines. It has been found in studies that somewhere around 40 percent of people will experience sciatica sometime in their life.

Symptoms of sciatica include the leg pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling sensation, depending on a large extent on where the pinched nerve is in the large sciatic nerve.

Common Underlying Causes of Sciatica

The most common causes of sciatica are problems of the lower back:

  • Lumbar herniated disc – This condition happens when the inner portion of the vertebral disk leaks or slips out through the outer core of the disc. The herniation causes irritation of the contiguous nerve root. The most common symptom of a lumbar herniated disc is sciatica.
  • Degenerative disc disease – The natural process of deterioration of the discs in the lower back with aging can result to irritation in the nerve root and cause sciatica. With aging, the disc weakens, causes excessive micro-action in the spine and allows inflammatory proteins inside the disc to be exposed, irritating the surrounding nerve.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – Another condition resulting from aging, lumbar spinal stenosis is the narrowing of a spinal canal, which can cause sciatica.
  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis – This condition happens with the slipping forward of one vertebral body on another as a result of a small stress fracture in the first vertebral body. When this occurs, the nerve can get pinched and cause sciatica.
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – A dysfunction and irritation in the sacroiliac joint, which is located at the bottom of the spine, can also irritate the nerve on top of it, causing sciatica pain.
  • Piriformis syndrome – The irritation of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle above it can cause sciatica.

Other causes of sciatica may include:

  • Development s in the woman’s body during pregnancy, such as weight gain and hormonal changes
  • Scar tissue that compresses the nerve root
  • Inflammation due to muscle strain, which can put pressure on a nerve root
  • Spinal tumor and infection in the low back that can affect the nerve root

Treatment for Sciatica

The treatment methods for sciatica will differ depending on the underlying cause.  When exercise is to be employed, specific sciatica exercises for the underlying cause is to be adopted. Sciatic nerve pain may be treated with non-surgical remedies and regular exercise. A more structured treatment program and even surgery may be needed for more severe cases. Other non-surgical options for the treatment of sciatica include:

  • Pain medications
  • Heat/ice
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Alternative sciatica treatment including chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and massage therapy

Any type of sciatica treatment should be referred to qualified professional healthcare providers. The health of your nervous system, including the sciatic nerve, is much too important not to pay special attention and care to.

Varicose Veins: When Standing and Sitting Become Bad

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Are you quite bothered by the blood vessels that show on your legs and feet? The formation of those varicose veins is a tell-tale sign of poor blood circulation that may be caused by lack of movement, irregular exercise, constricting veins, as well as obesity.

How Varicose Veins Form

The human heart pumps blood to our entire body system. And good blood circulation means having the heart pump fresh clean blood to every single blood vessel as another batch of blood which has circulated through our body returns. However, blood that has been pumped right down our feet – the limbs farthest from our heart – may find it difficult to return as it contends with gravity and low blood pressure, among several other factors; thus, the formation of varicose veins.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Sitting for long periods of time, for example, can cause varicose veins. The lack of movement and immobility of your legs and feet when you sit for long periods of time prevent muscles from providing sufficient pressure to the blood vessels, and thus, not allowing to facilitate better blood flow. This causes the blood vessels in the legs and feet to expand as blood accumulates.

The same is also true for those who work as sales clerks or are involved in professions that require them to stand up all day. Aside from gravity helping our heart pump blood to our lower extremities, it is also our body’s natural tendency to pump more blood to parts of the body that are most used and tired. But the same blood that has been pumped down to our feet with ease now does not have gravity on its side when making its way back to our heart. This is the reason why those who stand up the entire day tend to develop varicose veins.

How to Prevent Formation of Varicose Veins

Exercise and movement is necessary in avoiding the formation of varicose veins. Those who sit all day in the office should take time out to stand and walk around once in a while to help blood circulation in the feet.

At the end of the day, relax tired feet by putting them up at a level higher than the heart. This will help blood to flow back and reduce the blood pressure being exerted to the vessels in our feet and legs. It also helps to massage our feet regularly as this encourages good blood flow.

Women who tend to develop varicose veins easily should avoid wearing heels that are more than two and a half to three inches high.

Cycling: Benefits for the Legs and Other Parts of the Body

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Apart from the blissful effects of it to the physically active, cycling is one of the best exercises there is that lead to many benefits. Aside from being an aerobic workout that conditions the heart and improves the circulatory system, it is proven to be a very good substitute activity to the injured runner.

Benefits of Cycling

Cycling conditions not only the legs, but also the upper back and the shoulders through biking with drop handling bars. And for the best part for the body-conscious, it burns between four and seven hundred calories very hour. Isn’t that amazing?

Although an indoor exercise bike is taken well, the outdoor terrain is still the best place to do cycling. It provides the space that mobility demands, thus providing a bigger place to bike and sweat it out! Plus, don’t you want to appreciate the beauty of your surrounding when you are cycling?

What to Consider when Biking

To acquire the maximum benefits of cycling, you must primarily consider knowing the right bike to use, the right place to pedal, and the right posture to make.

Apparently, it is more difficult to bike around the metro, where traffic does not ease up. Hills on the countryside, on the other hand, become more exhausting. So, the best option is a paved road or avenue, allowing you to gently roll and choose the right pace. When you become more acquainted with the location and gets used to the physical strain, you can then increase your speed, even pedaling at a higher level.

Acquiring bike of proper speed is also a must-know. If you are to venture out into the hills, a bike with at least 10 to 12 speeds is compulsory. Mountain or all-terrain bikes are growing in number in the bike market. Also referred to as ATBs, they had made cycling more possible in once unconquered territories and routes. They have smaller but heavier frame sizes and have wider, knobby tires. Upright handlebars, more so, have been featured by these bikes, making them more and more popular every year.

Finally, for maximum effectiveness and safety, remember the proper way of pedaling before you take off. The proper posture includes your extended leg slightly bent, providing the lower body with considerable exercise, particularly in the thigh, calves, hips, and buttocks areas. Muscles in these places are worked out, along with reduced strain. Make sure to follow proper posture and mechanics when biking to avoid experiencing leg pain, back pain, and other injuries.

Once you have gotten the right bike, been familiar with the right place, and practiced the right cycling posture, you can then go off and pedal through the benefits of cycling.

Why You Should Start Biking Today?

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In this age where time is so fast, oil prices skyrocket often, pollution is so serious, and unhealthy lifestyle is almost like a trend, one need to maximize things in order to address all these issues. And as they say, it’s more like “shooting two birds with one stone”.

Benefits of Biking

And in the case of biking, you actually get to “shoot” more than two “birds”. Biking does have benefits not only on the environment and the community, but on the biker’s health and pockets, as well.

Biking, sometimes called cycling, is a wonderful way of getting to places and is a recreational activity one can enjoy all throughout the year. Because no gas or oil is needed, it is a great way of saving the already polluted air. Especially for those who live near their work areas, biking could be faster since it can do away with congested traffic.

Biking is also a very inexpensive and yet very effective form of exercise. It is one of the best forms of cardiovascular and weight-reducing exercise. In fact, if you cycle 6 miles to and from work for 30 minutes, almost 15 to 20 lbs. of unwanted and unhealthy fats are shed off each year. Imagine that! Biking also helps strengthen your leg muscles and back to avoid serious injuries including cramps, sciatica, and even spinal disorders. It is also a perfect way to release tension and feel invigorated.

Biking can actually save you money, too. Compared to a car, bikes are inexpensive, cheap to maintain, and not in need of fuel.

Safety Tips when Biking

However, there are few safety tips to consider when biking. Here are safety tips you should consider if you plan to bike around for your environment and health:

  1. Always wear a helmet.
  2. Be alert at all times. Make sure that drivers do see you.
  3. When biking at night, make sure your bike’s tail light is turned on and wear light-colored shirts so you are visible to other drivers on the road.
  4. Practice looking over your shoulder without losing your balance. If possible, use a rear-view mirror.
  5. Keep your eyes open for road hazards like manholes, oily pavement, sewers, railroad tracks, gravel, and other things.
  6. Don’t make eye contact with chasing dogs. They might run after you as you bike.
  7. Always be aware of your environment. Do not wear ear plugs or headsets.
  8. Obey traffic rules.
  9. Be prepared for road side repairs.
  10. Do not counter the flow of traffic.

More than fun and enjoyment, biking helps improve your health and lifestyle. Start biking today and see the difference it will make in your life.

How to Walk Tall and Eliminate Leg Pain

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A graceful walk is actually good posture-in-motion. The traditional practice of balancing a book on the head while walking is one of the best ways in forcing the body into proper alignment. However, practicing good walking posture should not end in childhood. Even if you are already working or doing house chores for the family, walking the right way should be given utmost importance.

The Proper Way of Walking

When you walk, your feet should be turned out just the liniest bit and positioned in almost a straight line, with only one or two inches apart. The length of your stride should depend on your height and the length of your legs. Additionally, when walking, your head should face in front with your chin parallel to the ground, and your arms freely swaying on the side. This good body mechanics of walking will help you move comfortably and eliminate any uneasiness.

The Benefits of Walking Tall

Walking the right way is important because it promotes good posture – straightening the back and preventing sluggishness. In relation to this, it eliminates the risk of any spine or bone condition brought about by poor posture, including back pain and spinal disorder. It also serves as a good exercise that doesn’t just help in toning the leg muscles, but promotes better breathing and blood circulation, as well. Additionally, walking and standing tall add confidence and poise to your personality.

Walking Exercises to Prevent Back and Leg Pain

To improve your walking posture and avoid back pain and leg injuries, these are the exercises that you can perform on a regular basis.

Slouch eliminator: To perform this exercise, start by lifting your head up. Then, stretch your neck such that your shoulders drop back, making you look like a puppet that is being pulled up by a string on the top of your head.

Leg straightener: Start with a walking position, with one leg in front of the other. Try to bend only that foot in front and keep your weight on the leg left behind. To develop your leg muscles, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front, and walk forward using your buttocks.

Shrug: This exercise aims to eliminate tense shoulders. You can do this muscle warm up exercise by slowly raising each shoulder towards the level of your ear, then shrug them forward and backwards in circular motions.

Bellybutton crunch: This exercise involves deep breathing that is essential for spinal alignment. To do this, simply, take a deep breath and get as much air as possible. As you inhale and exhale, keep your tummy pulled in.

Bottom line: Good walking posture includes keeping the bottom “tucked” and not stuck out. To keep it this way when you walk, practice clenching and unclenching the buttocks 25 times a day.

How to Relieve Pain in the Legs and Thighs

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The common types of pain in the legs and thighs are those resulting from doing physical exercises or workout especially when they are too rigorous. This is particularly true for people who have just started an exercise routine or played a sport. The ache in this part of your body after such activities is called delayed onset muscle soreness. You usually experience them a few hours after doing the strenuous activity. In most of these cases, simple home medication and treatment may be enough to relieve the pain.

In different situations where there are no physical activities involved and pain in the legs and thighs are experienced, the cause can be more serious and a visit to the doctor is necessary to diagnose the condition.

Relieving Pain in the Legs and Thighs

What can be done to relieve your discomfort from the pain your legs and thighs?

  • Rest – The cause of the muscle pain you feel may be an indication of a pull or strain. A simple rest may be all that your body needs to relieve the discomfort and not cause exacerbation of your condition.  Elevating your leg as you rest it will control the swelling. Doctors recommend getting enough rest to allow the pain in your legs and thighs to subside before going back to your exercise routine or sport. This may take a week for your full recovery. On your return to your physical activity and you still feel the pain, extend your rest to a day or two more.
  • Medication – Medication, especially when combined with other forms of treatment, can greatly help relieve pain and swelling. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen are options. These medications also promote improved blood flow to your muscles and help in the repair and recovery.
  • Ice – When muscle pain presents itself, apply an ice pack to your thighs and legs for relief and to ease inflammation. Place a bag filled with ice cubes on your thighs and legs for ten minutes. Remove the bag for twenty minutes and repeat this step several times in a day until you get rid of the pain. A 2012 study showed that an ice bath, wherein your body is submerged in cold water (temperature of 12 to 15 degrees Celsius) brought relief from sore muscles. It is not recommended that you stay longer than ten minutes in the cold bath.
  • Massage – A light massage to your legs and thighs can be a soothing treatment to delayed onset muscle soreness. Massage your legs and thighs gently soon after workout and when pain sets in. In a study conducted in 2005, it was found that participants who employed massaging of the sore muscles after a workout experienced up to 30 percent better pain relief and reduced swelling compared to those who did not use massage.

Pain in the legs and thighs that are not apparently caused by an activity or event may be a symptom of other underlying conditions. For example, sciatica, an indicator of more serious conditions in your lower back, shows up as pain in your legs. A more thorough examination is necessary in such a case. The treatment options will have to be suited to the underlying cause of the leg pain.

Exercises to Prevent Lower Leg Injury

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The common goal of athletes and their coaches is for them to remain injury-free to be able to continue playing and enjoying what they do best.

Training at the optimal level is not possible if the athlete is injured or his or her joints and tissues are dysfunctional. Almost all injuries can be traced to wrong training methods or neglect. For example, increasing weight to be lifted beyond one’s body’s capability will most likely result to injury. Also, neglecting to do conditioning and strengthening exercises and therapeutic modalities, such as massage or physical therapy to maintain the health of the tissues and proper joint motions may cause dysfunctions in the body. Such dysfunctions may ultimately cause breakdown and injury. Though these examples are with sports people, the same is true with us who may simply be physical fitness enthusiasts who occasionally perform exercises, workout in the gym, jog or run.

An important part of injury prevention for our feet is strength training and mobilization of joints and tissues in the low leg and knee.

Exercises to Prevent Leg Injury

Try these simple exercises to make your legs less vulnerable to injuries:

  • Side-leg raise – Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a common diagnosis for an injured runner, may be prevented with this exercise in the following steps:
  1. With your hips and legs stacked, lie on your side.
  2. Lift the leg on top up. Keep this leg straight, pointing your toes inward and toward the ground.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds before releasing.
  4. Do the previous steps this time having the opposite leg on top.

Do three sets per leg. Work up to one minute per set.

  • Heel walk and big-toe raise – This walking exercise strengthens the muscles attached to the shinbone. Shin splints may be prevented through this exercise.
  1. With your forefeet off the floor, walk in place barefoot. Do three sets.
  2. Raise your one foot, lifting the big toe as high as you can. Lower your foot. Repeat these steps

10 times. Switch to the other foot. Do three sets of this routine.

  • Half-squats on a downward slope – With this exercise, runner’s knee may be prevented through keeping the kneecap aligned and strengthening the quads.
  1. Stand on a hill or a plane sloping down facing the down side. Do a half-squat (between a full

squat and an erect position). Do three sets of 10 half-squats each.

  1. If you find this too easy, you may try doing the routine with one leg (single-leg half-squats).
  • Calf drops – This exercise strengthens the calves and prevents Achilles tendinitis in the process.
  1. Stand barefoot. Do this with the balls of your feet on a step.
  2. Rise up with both feet – on your toes.
  3. Shift your body weight to one foot then lower down on that foot.
  4. Rise up on both feet then lower on the other one.

Do three sets of the exercise, 10 on each side.

  • Arch raise – The foot muscles are strengthened by this exercise that tend to prevent plantar fasciitis.
  1. On one leg, stand barefoot.
  2. Place even pressure on the three points in your foot – heel, big toe and pinkie toe, as if your leg were a tripod.
  1. Scrunch up while grounding these three points.

These are some of the exercises, which have been developed and are aimed at strengthening and bringing stability to your low leg and knee. They are important in reducing the risk of injury in your legs, thereby improving overall health and function.

Walking Your Way to Health

 

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Why is walking the first type of exercise your doctor recommends? It’s cheap, the risk of injury is extremely low, it can be done almost anywhere, it requires no special equipment except for a good pair of walking shoes, you don’t have to be in great shape to start, and it can be just as beneficial as more intense exercise. It also gets you started and, hopefully, hooked on an exercise program.

 

If you’re truly a beginner:

 

  • Warm up with gentle stretches.
  • Start out at a slow, regular pace, for no more than 10 minutes.
  • Find a route where the path is smooth and traffic is light, or walk around the block slowly at first, just to test your muscles.
  • Each day, try to walk a little farther and a little faster.

 

Even as you become more fit, you never have to move on to more strenuous activities. Researchers found that brisk walking is as healthful as more vigorous forms of exercise. So when you want to progress from baby steps to serious walking, plan on a moderate pace for a total of 20 to 30 minutes, four times a week. Remember, this shouldn’t be a stroll in the park. Shoot for a speed of two miles in 30 minutes. A good way to gauge your time is to chart out a two-mile course in your car using the odometer. Or go to a local track.

 

No matter where, when, or how you walk, remember:

 

  • Lighting and visibility are important for your safety.
  • Walking isn’t a fashion show, so wear shoes that match your activity. That means comfortable walking shoes, not street shoes.
  • Teach your dog to heel. Having a companion is always fun, but a dog that drags you along on his leash is not fun or healthy.

 

Want to simply add a few more steps to your routine every day? Make these easy but healthy changes:

 

  • Park farther away at the mall.
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Walk the golf course instead of taking a cart.
  • Spend your coffee break on a walk instead of standing around the water cooler.
  • March through your local shopping mall, no matter the weather.
  • Walk while you’re on the phone or during television commercial breaks.

 

Walking is something we do every day. With some tweaks on how you walk and make it a part of your exercise, you are sure to capture all its health benefits for a healthier, better you!