The leg is the section of the lower limb extending from the knee to the ankle. There two bones the tibia or shinbone together with the smaller fibula bone. Muscles in the legs move the ankle, foot and toes. There are three muscles at superficial layer: the calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus are the muscles at the back of the leg. Their tendon, known as Achilles tendon is attached to the calcaneus bone in the heel. Also plantaris is a superficial muscle.There are four muscles in the deep compartment of the posterior leg: the popliteus, tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum longus. These muscles contract to flex the foot — such as when standing on the tiptoes — and flex the toes. They also stabilize the ankle joint and foot and to maintain the body’s balance. There are four muscles in the anterior compartment of the leg; tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus and fibularis tertius.They dorsiflex, invert the foot at the ankle joint and extend the toes. There are two muscles in the lateral compartment of the leg; the fibularis longus and brevis. They turn the sole of the foot outwards.
Most leg pain results from wear and tear, overuse, or injuries in joints or bones or in muscles, ligaments, tendons or other soft tissues. Some types of leg pain can be caused by problems in the lower spine where the nerve to the leg originates and then travels to the legs, such as slipped disk, sciatica. Leg pain can also be caused by blood clots, varicose veins or poor circulation.
Leg pain can be mild that comes and goes, or severe that makes it difficult to sleep and walk. The pain is often described as aching, throbbing or burning and it can be accompanied by numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. For leg pain treatments, finding the cause is important and treatments depend on the causes. Acupuncture is effective for the leg pain management.
A muscle spasm also known as a muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. Skeletal muscle spasms happen suddenly and are very painful. The causes include overuse, over stretched, tiredness, injury or strain. Other causes include dehydration and depletion of electrolytes. Muscle cells require enough water, glucose, ions including sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium to contract. Abnormal supply of these elements can cause the muscle to become irritable and develop spasm. Narrowed arteries also can cause muscle spasm due to inadequate blood supply and nutrients. Exercises often cause leg spasms and chronic neck and back pain can often cause muscle spasms. Many conditions can result in muscle spasm.
A leg muscle cramp, for example is an episode of sudden pain in the muscles of the leg caused by an involuntary contracting of the leg muscle. Leg muscle cramps are common and it usually occurs in the calf muscles. It can also happen in any part of your leg, including your feet and thighs. When it happens, the muscles in your leg suddenly become tight and painful which will last seconds to minutes. After the cramping has passed, you may have pain and tenderness in your leg for some time. This often occurs at night during sleep. If you only get leg muscles cramps occasionally, it is not a cause for concern. If you get leg muscle cramps frequently, or if they are so painful they disrupt your sleep and you are unable to function normally the next day, you should get help from health care professionals. Sometimes the cause of leg cramps is not clear, we call it idiopathic leg cramps. Theoretically idiopathic leg cramps can be caused by abnormal nerve activity during sleep or excessive strain placed on leg muscles such as exercises, or a sudden restriction in the blood supply to the affected muscles. Shortened tendon can also be one of the causes in old people. Leg muscles cramps can be caused by some other conditions for example, pregnancy, neurological conditions, liver disease, infection, toxins or dehydration. Some medicines can also cause leg muscle cramps such as diuretics, statins, raloxifene, nifedipine and nicotinic acid.
Do you know that acupuncture can help with improving muscle cramps?
Schroder S et al Eur J Neurol (2007) 14:276-81
Li J et al Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (2012) 32:1624-7
Welcome to my blog, discover acupuncture with Dr Maggie Ju
Qualified as a medical doctor in Western medicine in China with a Medical degree from Beijing, China and a PhD degree from the UK. Many year research and clinical experiences. This blog is for information only.
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