Getting a Leg to Stand On: Chiropractic Care for Leg Pain

Our legs do a tremendous amount of work for us. They allow us to stand upright, walk, run, and climb. They are expected to bear the weight of the entire upper body, as well as play a vital role in helping us maintain balance and equilibrium. So when leg pain hits, patients can feel as though the rug has, quite literally, been pulled out from underneath them. Tasks as simple as walking from the bedroom to the bathroom in the morning turn into an exercise in agonizing pain. Attempting to find relief from nagging leg pain can be a long, frustrating process, and it may be difficult to pin down the precise cause of the pain. Dr. Nathen Horst sees many such patients in his practice.

Causes of Leg Pain

While some causes for leg pain are pretty much self-evident, such as a sprained ankle or twisted knee due to a fall, other causes of leg pain are difficult to determine, and may actually not even have their root cause in the leg at all. Common causes for leg pain include, but are not limited to the following:

Sciatica: This will usually occur as pain travels from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the back of the upper leg. The pain is often burning or tingling, and can worsen after standing or sitting too long. Sciatica is not an actual medical condition, but a set of symptoms that indicate that there may be issues with the lower back – most often as the result of a herniated disc in the lumbar (lower back) spine.

Tendonitis: This will occur when the tendons that surround the leg muscles become irritated, strained or tear due to injury or repetitive use. This condition often occurs in athletes as a result of a sports injury. Patients may first notice the tendonitis as pain in the lower calf or along the back of the heel.

Posture or gait problems: Bad posture or difficulty walking can lead to leg pain by causing the rest of the body, particularly the knees, to compensate. The knees must bear the greatest load of the entire body, so any change in how patients stand or walk can adversely affect how that load on the knees is balanced.

Treatment for Leg Pain

The most commonly recommended treatment for leg pain that is not severe can best be remembered by the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Over the counter pain medications such as aspirin or muscle rubs may also help. Standard physician treatments may include muscle relaxants, gentle stretching, massage, or physical therapy.

Although Dr. Horst will incorporate some of these standard treatments in his practice (such as stretching, massage, or hot/cold treatments), the basis of treatment of leg pain is rooted in the chiropractic adjustment of the joints and surrounding tendons and ligaments. The theory behind chiropractic care is that if the joints shift out of proper alignment, this can put pressure on other structures surrounding the joint, such as the muscles or nerves. This will result in pain or stiffness.

A chiropractic adjustment is performed either with the hands (manual adjustment) or with the assistance of a spring-loaded hand-held instrument (instrument-assisted adjustment). The adjustment will guide the joint back into proper alignment. Dr. Horst may also use a special treatment table, with various hinged sections that can be raised or lowered. When various parts of the table are lowered at the same time as Dr. Horst performs an adjustment, the force of gravity will enhance the effect of the adjustment.

Leg pain can be particularly debilitating, as it may be difficult to perform the most basic activities of daily living. Chiropractic care may well give these patients a leg to stand on again.

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