Leg pains are quite common amongst seniors. There are several reasons contributing to leg pains, amongst which being overweight and an inappropriate diet happens to be the most common. However, in some cases, the elderly might have suffered from injuries as well that keep bothering them with the passage of time. Although leg pain can often be treated at home but if the pain happens to be persistent and serious, medical attention may be required. In this article, we look at some causes of leg pain in the elderly and some home treatments.
What is Leg Pain?
Before we dive deep into the discussion, it is important that we discuss what is leg pain and what causes it. Pain occurs when our body is subjected to extremely high or low temperatures or pressure, which is released by tissue damage. When it comes to leg pain, it can be burning, tingling, dull or numbing, etc. Furthermore, it can either be acute, meaning sudden and short term, or chronic and persistent.
If someone receives an injury while playing sports, it mostly tends to be acute and short-term. Other types of diseases such as PAD tend to develop over time and this allows the individual to pinpoint it within due time. In addition to that, if an individual happens to play sports, some injuries can be repetitive due to strain injuries and stress fractures. In such cases, if an individual ignores or overlooks treatment and rest, the injuries can turn into chronic pains.
As mentioned previously, there are several factors contributing to leg pains. For instance, crepitus is recognized by cracking or popping sounds in the knee or arthritis. It is basically an autoimmune disease that affects the joints in the knee, hip, or ankle. If a muscle, ligament, or tendon happens to be strained during a fall or any other situation, it will be considered musculoskeletal.
Other major causes include deep vein thrombosis, PAD, and infections, etc. These types of cases often result in discoloration of the skin as well. In addition to that, neurological pain might be the cause as well due to which an individual may experience restless legs syndrome. The most common conditions include uncontrollable twitching of the legs, nerve damage, or neuropathy.
Leg Cramps or Charley Horses
Charley horses is a type of leg pain that is transient and can last for several minutes. It is a situation in which the calf at the back of the lower leg, tightens and goes into spasm. It needs to be mentioned that cramps tend to be common at night amongst older people. It is estimated that at least 1 in 3 people suffers from cramps when they are above 60 years old.
PAD is another type of leg pain that is caused due to poor circulation. If left ignored, it can lead to serious health concerns. The most common indication of it is intermittent claudication. Intermittent claudication causes the blood supply to the leg muscles to become restricted. An individual suffering from PAD will usually experience cramp-like muscle pain along with pain in the buttocks and pain while walking.
DVT is a serious leg pain that refers to a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg. It can take place due to an individual sitting for hours during the day or traveling on a long-distance flight. One of the most common symptoms of DVT is swelling in addition to a hot and painful sensation on one side of the leg. Furthermore, this might only occur while walking or standing up. The good news is that the clot will most probably dissolve itself by walking and exercising. However, if the person feels dizziness and shortness of breath, medical attention maybe required.
Fractures and Stress Fractures
Fractures and stress fractures also happen to be a common occurrence amongst the elderly. It is amongst the major reasons behind leg pain since people at such age tend to become sensitive to pressure and find it comparatively hard to balance themselves. If an elderly happens to fall, it can lead to several types of fractures. For instance, it could be a hairline fracture that can be easily fixed or might require surgery. Moreover, fractures are immediately visible with severe swelling, bruising, and deformation.
Stress fractures on the other hand can result from repetitive stress during sports. It can take place amongst young individuals as well especially if the intensity of the activity is increased suddenly. However, in such cases, the fractures tend to be small and the pain might start as soon as the individual starts to train and exercise.
Muscle Cramps & Spasms
Amongst the many things that can go wrong while we age is the unwanted and often painful involuntary contraction of leg muscles and in other areas as well. Although it is unintentional but the contraction sometimes lasts for more than several seconds and turns from being a muscle in spasm to a muscle cramp. It begins with a tightening of the muscle and if it happens to remain that way for some time, it means that it has turned into a cramp.
Self-diagnosing muscle spasms and cramps tend to be easy. The most important sign is the intense pain caused by the extreme tightening of the muscle. One can easily identify the tightened muscle as compared to the other muscles that are relaxed. It might be that the spam lasts for a few seconds or upto 15 minutes. The problem is that the longer the cramp lasts, the more likely the muscle will be sore after the acute pain has subsided. In some cases, the pain might be so intense that it might restrict an individual from making certain movements and actions such as writing. For instance, cramps taking place in the muscles of the hand might make it impossible to lift items or objects.
Risks & Causes
Cramps amongst the elderly are a common occurrence. Studies state that around 60 percent of adults experience and suffer from cramps from time to time. As we become older, the frequency increases as well. At the same time, women tend to suffer from comparatively more cramps than men. However, there are several reasons contributing to muscle cramping including, dehydration, medications, and certain other diseases. It is not only the medicines that have been found to cause cramps but some drugs as well. If you observe that upon taking a new medication, the frequency of cramps has risen, you might want to consult a doctor.
While the age factor is one thing, physical exertion is another. Our muscles are designed to undergo a certain amount of pressure and stress at a time. When you overburden them, they will simply fall out. This is why you see prominent players being left out of competitions because they had over-stressed themselves in the previous matches or training. If the condition is left ignore and dehydration is persistent at the same time as well, the issue will turn into a cramp.
Another major reason for not only leg but body pain is our insufficient diet. Instead of choosing healthy meals during the day, especially when we are aged, we tend to consume meals that spike our blood sugar levels and trigger several other health concerns. Since muscle cramps and contractions are most likely as we age, it is important that we consider consuming healthy diets.
If an elderly is experiencing contractions or cramps that are not too serious, you can utilize some self-help measures to provide relief. Even though most people tend to use painkillers but we suggest stretching and massaging the muscle. If a cramp takes place, hold the toe and pull it towards the body while straightening the leg. Plus, walk on heels until the cramp eases off.
If it is a sports-related injury such as sprains or strains, the best way to treat is by resting. Use ice to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. However, you should put it in a cloth and then use it rather than applying directly to the skin. Furthermore, lift the leg above the level of the heart to allow gravity to drain and reduce the swelling and pain.
You may also apply some OTC creams on the affected area to ease the pain. Check out our list of the 5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Creams Over The Counter for recommendations.
The use of creams may also help alleviate their leg pain. For tips and recommendations, check out our Guide to Selecting Pain Relief Creams.
And since cramps tend to be common amongst women at night time as well it is suggested that they remain hydrated and avoid alcohol or caffeine before bedtime. Additionally, they should consume a balanced diet and follow a recommended dietary plan to receive the proper vitamins and minerals. With that being said, foods rich in potassium and calcium, etc. are important.
Muscle spasms and cramps tend to increase as we age. While some of them can be identified and prevented before they turn serious on one hand, on the other you might not know until you wake up in the morning not being able to walk. Therefore, the key is to regularly exercise and eat healthy meals to ensure that your body is receiving sufficient minerals and vitamins to repair itself. This way, you will be able to reduce the frequency of cramps or strains as you grow older.