Leg pain when sitting
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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A variety of conditions can lead to leg pain that is aggravated by sitting.
Disc degeneration in the low back can lead to impingement of the nerve roots leading out from the spine. Sitting increases intradiscal pressure, leading to more pressure on nerve roots.
Sciatic nerve impingement, also called sciatica, is common in people who sit for prolonged periods of time. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down the back of your leg and down to your feet. Swelling in certain muscles in the buttocks, such as the pyriformis, can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain down the leg.
Herniated discs occur when the inner portion of the disc protrudes, putting pressure on the nerve roots leading from the spine. Pain or numbness in the legs is a common symptom of herniated discs in the lower back. This condition is also aggravated by sitting.
Another common cause of leg pain while sitting is patellofemoral syndrome. Patellofemoral pain is a common knee problem. If you have this condition, you feel pain under and around your kneecap. The pain can get worse when you're active or when you sit for a long time. You can have the pain in only one knee, or you can have pain in both knees.
Tips for avoiding the anterior knee pain of patellofemoral syndrome...
• Take a break from physical activity that causes a lot of pounding on your legs, such as running, volleyball or basketball. If you want to keep exercising, try swimming or another low-impact activity. You may want to try working out on
nonimpact elliptical trainers since they put less stress on your knees.
• Do quad setting exercises. While sitting in a chair, slowly extend your leg so that it is straight out in front of you. Hold it for 10 seconds. Then let your leg down. Repeat for at least 10 repetitions. Slowly increase the number of repetitions. Each exercise should take a few minutes. Doing them twice a day is a good start. These exercises make your front thigh muscles ("quads") stronger.
• Proper walking or running shoes can help knee pain. Even a simple arch support insert from a shoe store can be helpful. This insert is less expensive than a custom-made support or brace.
• Ice your knees for 10 to 20 minutes after activity. This can ease the pain and speed up healing.
Pain from nerve injury (neuropathy) may also cause leg pain. This tends to most severe at rest. Neuropathic pain is treated by identifying the cause of neuropathy and using specific medications.
Patients having plantar fasciitis, mainly complain of pain in the heel and sole of the foot. This condition can usually be managed with orthotics and physical therapy.
Venous insufficiency can also cause leg pain while sitting. A vascular surgeon should be consulted.
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