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Leg Pain: Care Instructions


Many things can cause leg pain. Too much exercise or overuse can cause a muscle cramp (or charley horse). You can get leg cramps from not eating a balanced diet that has enough potassium, calcium, and other minerals. If you do not drink enough fluids or are taking certain medicines, you may develop leg cramps. Other causes of leg pain include injuries, blood flow problems, nerve damage, and twisted and enlarged veins (varicose veins).

You can usually ease pain with self-care. Your doctor may recommend that you rest your leg and keep it elevated.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Take any other medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Rest your leg while you have pain, and avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Prop up your leg at or above the level of your heart when possible.
  • Make sure you are eating a balanced diet that is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, especially if you are pregnant.
  • If directed by your doctor, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Your leg may be in a splint, a brace, or an elastic bandage, and you may have crutches to help you walk. Follow your doctor's directions about how long to wear supports and how to use the crutches.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • Your leg is cool or pale or changes colour.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have increasing or severe pain.
  • Your leg suddenly feels weak and you cannot move it.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the sore area.
    • Pus draining from a place on your leg.
    • A fever.
  • You cannot bear weight on your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.