Minor leg injuries are common. Symptoms often
develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury. Leg injuries are
most likely to occur during:
Sports or recreational
Work or projects around
Most leg injuries in children and teens occur during sports or
play or from accidental falls. The risk for injury is higher in contact sports,
such as wrestling, football, or soccer, and in high-speed sports, such as biking,
in-line skating, skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. Knees, ankles, and
feet are the most affected body areas. Any injury occurring at the end of a
long bone near a joint may injure the growth plate and needs to be checked by a
Older adults have a higher risk for injuries and fractures
because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteoporosis)
as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which
increases their risk for accidental injury.
Most minor injuries
will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to
relieve symptoms and promote healing.
Acute (traumatic) injury
An acute injury may occur
from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, a fall, or from twisting, jerking,
jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising
and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries usually require
prompt medical evaluation and may include:
Bruises (contusions), which occur when small
blood vessels under the skin tear or rupture, often from a twist, bump, or
fall. Blood leaks into tissues under the skin and causes a black-and-blue color
that often turns colors, including purple, red, yellow, and green, as the
Injuries to the tough, ropey fibers (ligaments)
that connect bone to bone and help stabilize joints (sprains).
Injuries to the tough, ropey
fibers that connect muscle to bone (tendons), such as a ruptured
Pulled muscles (strains), such as a hamstring strain.
Muscle ruptures, such as gastrocnemius
Broken bones (fractures). A
break, such as a lower leg fracture, may occur when a bone is twisted, bent, jammed, struck directly, or used
to brace against a fall.
Pulling or pushing bones out of the normal
relationship to the other bones that make up a joint (dislocations).
Overuse injuries occur when too much
stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity
or doing the same activity repeatedly. Overuse injuries include:
Inflammation of the sac of fluid that cushions
and lubricates the bones (bursitis).
tearing, or fraying of the tough, ropey fibers that connect muscles to bones
Inflammation of the fibrous covering of the
bone (periosteum) where muscle fibers attach to it (shin splints).
Inflammation of the plantar fascia, a broad, flat
ligament on the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis).
Inflammation at the top of the shinbone (tibia)
where the patellar tendon attaches to a bony prominence (Osgood-Schlatter disease). This is more likely to
occur during rapid growth periods and is usually seen in athletic teenagers,
especially those who play football, basketball, or soccer, and those who are
involved with gymnastics and dance. Osgood-Schlatter disease involves both legs
about 25% of the time and is rarely a chronic, lifelong condition.
Treatment for a leg injury may include
rest, ice, elevation, and other first aid measures (such as the application of
a brace, splint, or cast), or physical therapy. Some leg injuries are treated
with medicine or surgery, especially if a bone is broken. Treatment depends
The location, type, and severity of the
When the injury occurred.
Your age, health
condition, and activities, such as work, sports, or hobbies.
all anklets or rings. It may be hard to remove the jewelry if your leg or
foot swells. Swelling without the removal of jewelry can cause other serious
problems, such as compression of nerves or restriction of blood flow.
attempt to straighten an injured leg.
Splint the injured
leg to protect it from further injury. Loosen the wrap around the splint if
signs develop below the wrap that mean the wrap is too tight, such as
numbness, tingling, increased pain, swelling, or cool skin.
bone is sticking out of the skin, do not try to push it back into the skin.
Cover the area with a clean bandage.
Cast and splint care
If a cast or splint is
applied, it is important to keep it dry and try to move the uninjured parts of
your extremity as normally as possible to help maintain muscle strength and
tone. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to
care for your cast or splint.
Home treatment for a minor injury
If your injury does
not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home
treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Rest and protect an
injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may
be causing your pain or soreness.
reduce pain and swelling. Apply
ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice
or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
For the first 48 hours after an injury,
avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot
packs, or alcoholic beverages.
After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is
heat and begin
gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help
restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between
heat and cold treatments.
Compression, or wrapping
the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will
help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because this can cause more
swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight.
Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain,
coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72
hours; a more serious problem may be present.
Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice
and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the
level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
Remove all rings, anklets, or any other jewelry that goes around a leg. It will be
harder to remove the jewelry later if swelling
Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and
encourage blood flow. Do not massage the injured area if it causes
Use a crutch or a cane for the 24 to 48 hours after the
injury if it makes you more comfortable and supports the injured area. If you
feel you need to use a crutch or cane for more than 48 hours, discuss your
symptoms with your doctor.
Do not smoke or use other tobacco
products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays
tissue repair. For more information, see the topic
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
step stool. Do not stand on chairs or other unsteady objects.
protective gear during sports or recreational activities, such as
roller-skating or soccer. Supportive splints may reduce your risk for
Stretch before and after physical exercise, sports, or
recreational activities to warm up your muscles.
Use the correct
techniques (movements) or positions during activities so that you do not strain
Use equipment appropriate to your size, strength,
Avoid overusing your leg doing repeated movements
that can injure your
tendon. In daily routines or hobbies, think about the
activities in which you make repeated leg movements, and modify the way you do
the activities, if possible, to prevent leg injuries from
Consider taking lessons to learn the proper technique
for sports. Have a trainer or person who is familiar with sports equipment
check your equipment to see whether it is well-suited for your level of
ability, body size, and body strength.
If you feel that certain
activities at your workplace are causing pain or soreness from overuse, talk to
your human resources department for information on alternative ways of doing
your job or to discuss equipment modifications or other job assignments.
Eat a nutritious diet with enough
vitamin D. (Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.)
Calcium is found in dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; dark
green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli; and other
Exercise and stay active. It is best to do weight-bearing exercise for at least 2½ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. In addition to weight-bearing exercise, experts recommend that you do resistance exercises at least 2 days a week. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate new
bone growth by working the muscles and bones against gravity. Exercises that
are not weight-bearing, such as swimming, are good for your general health but
do not stimulate new bone growth. Talk to your doctor about an
exercise program that is right for you. Begin slowly, especially if you have
been inactive. For more information, see the topic
Don't drink more than 2 alcoholic
drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcoholic drink a day if you are a woman.
People who drink more than this may be at higher risk for weakening bones
(osteoporosis). Alcohol use also increases your risk of
falling and breaking a bone.
Do not smoke or use other tobacco
products. Smoking puts you at a much higher risk for developing osteoporosis.
It also interferes with blood supply and healing. For more information, see the
Bodily injuries such as bruises,
burns, fractures, cuts, or punctures may be caused by
abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be
explained or does not match the explanation, when repeated injuries occur, or
when the explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to
prevent further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.