Conditions & Treatments

Leg Pain Non-Vascular Causes

Non-vascular leg pain is the term used to describe leg pain that suggests vascular disease but upon examination is shown not to be the cause. Commonly, the underlying medical cause for leg pain is nerve-related, musculoskeletal or vascular. Here we are focused on nerve-related and musculoskeletal leg pain.

Nerve-related causes of leg pain include diabetic neuropathy, spinal stenosis and trapped nerves, and sciatica. Nerve-related pain is due to damage (injury or disease) to or dysfunction of the nerves. It is a complex, chronic problem. Nerve pain feels like being pricked with needles or electric shocks, and shooting pain.

1- Neuropathy is pain caused by peripheral nerve inflammation that is not associated with spinal cord issues. Neuropathies can be caused by direct nerve irritation or damage, or medical illness. The pain is described as burning, tingling, shooting, pins and needles pain, and numbness.

Diabetic leg pain, is due to diabetic nerve damage and is called diabetic neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is pain in the feet that burns and tingles. It typically begins as foot pain and migrates up the leg.

2- Lower back problems can cause leg pain due to the location of the nerves, especially the sciatic nerve.  Sciatica is a lower back problem. The sciatic nerve runs from the buttocks down the back of the legs. When compressed, damaged or irritated it causes pain, weakness, numbness or tingling. The pain may be a dull ache or a severe shooting pain.

Lumbar spinal stenosis affects more than 200,000 U.S. adults. Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal cord canal which compresses spinal nerve roots and causes substantial pain in the buttocks and legs, with or without back pain. It is related to sciatica. It is aggravated by standing, walking and lumbar extension, and is relieved by forward flexion and sitting or lying.

A herniated or slipped disc in your lower spine puts pressure on your nerve roots. It is due to aging and strenuous activity. It can cause back pain, leg pain (including sciatica), numbness and tingling, weakness and even loss of bladder or bowel control. The pain usually occurs on one side of your body.

Intermittent claudication that is neuropathic (nerve-related) or vascular is called pseudo claudication. Claudication is typically pain associated with walking, and most often is vascular in origin. However, leg pain with walking is not always caused by vascular problems. It may be related to lumbar spinal stenosis, and mimics vascular intermittent claudication. With intermittent claudication due to peripheral artery disease the pain is typically a dull ache in the calves or thighs.

Degenerative joint disease (Osteoarthritis) is joint disease due to inflammation that also affects the surrounding tissue. The cartilage at the ends of your bones, wears away. The bones begin to rub together causing a lack of mobility, joint stiffness, joint pain and swelling.  It is common among the elderly, usually develops slowly and affects the knees, hips and spine.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that attacks the middle layer of skin and the tissues below. The skin of the lower legs is infected, causing pain, tenderness, and redness. The affected area appears  tight, shiny and swollen. This infection must be treated immediately to avoid serious consequences.

Muscular disease can also be a source of leg pain. In patients with vascular disease, muscular disease may be secondary to medication (statins), and may cause leg pain with walking.

Neuropathic pain is chronic, difficult to diagnose, and can negatively affect your quality of life.

Too often patients have leg pain that is attributed to an orthopedic or neurologic problem. Patients spend time and money to get the correct diagnosis. If you have leg pain that interferes with your life, the best approach is to consult a vascular surgeon to rule out vascular causes. Experienced clinicians know how to evaluate vascular causes of leg pain, so you get a correct diagnosis early and receive the treatment you need.  The board-certified vascular experts at South Valley Vascular Associates in Visalia, Porterville and Hanford, California are experienced and have state-of-the-art technology to get you up and walking pain-free. Call us at 559- 625-4118 in Visalia, or Hanford (559) 537-0320 and Porterville (559) 788-1022.