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Leg Pain

The sensation of pain or other unpleasant feelings in the lower limb.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Commonly Related Conditions

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Ginkgo biloba for people with leg pain while walking (intermittent claudication)

The main symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is leg pain in one or both calves while walking. Typically, this pain occurs during walking and is relieved by a short period of rest. This clinical phenomenon is called intermittent claudication (IC). Peripheral arterial disease is caused by progressive narrowing of the arteries in one or both legs and is a manifestation of systematic atherosclerosis, possibly leading to cardiovascular events. Conservative treatment consists of treatment for cardiovascular risk factors and symptomatic relief by exercise therapy and pharmacological treatments. One of the pharmacotherapeutical options is Ginkgo biloba extract, which is derived from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is a vasoactive agent which is believed to have a positive effect on walking ability in patients with PAD. This review shows that people using Ginkgo biloba could walk 64.5 metres further, which was a non‐significant difference compared with the placebo group. Overall, there is no evidence that Ginkgo biloba has a clinically significant benefit for patients with PAD.

Topical agents or dressings for reducing pain in venous leg ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are often painful, both during and between dressing changes, and during surgical removal of dead tissue (debridement). Dressings, topical creams and lotions have been promoted to reduce the pain of ulcers. Two trials tested a dressing containing ibuprofen, however, the pain measures and time frames reported were different. One trial indicated that pain relief achieved over 5 days with ibuprofen dressings could represent a clinically relevant reduction in pain. The other trial found no significant difference in the chance of pain relief, measured on the first night of treatment, for ibuprofen dressings compared with foam dressings. This trial, however, was small and participants were only followed for a few weeks, which may not be long enough to assess whether the dressing affects healing. There was evidence from five trials that a local anaesthetic cream (EMLA 5%) reduces the post‐procedural pain of debriding leg ulcers but there was insufficient evidence regarding any side effects of this cream and its impact on healing.

Angioplasty versus conservative management of intermittent claudication, leg pain on walking

Intermittent claudication is evident as pain in the leg that becomes apparent when walking and is relieved by rest. The pain is the result of insufficient blood flow to the calf muscles when exercising, generally because of atherosclerotic changes in the leg arteries so that a section becomes narrowed or blocked. People with mild disease are advised to stop smoking, exercise, and take low‐dose aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke. There is no widely accepted medication to treat claudication. Angioplasty involves using a balloon, laser or mechanical device threaded down a leg artery to widen and open the narrowed or blocked section. Possible side effects of the procedure include blood clots and movement of blood clots and debri (emboli). The immediate effect may be to relieve the symptoms but narrowing can reoccur.

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Summaries for consumers

Ginkgo biloba for people with leg pain while walking (intermittent claudication)

The main symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is leg pain in one or both calves while walking. Typically, this pain occurs during walking and is relieved by a short period of rest. This clinical phenomenon is called intermittent claudication (IC). Peripheral arterial disease is caused by progressive narrowing of the arteries in one or both legs and is a manifestation of systematic atherosclerosis, possibly leading to cardiovascular events. Conservative treatment consists of treatment for cardiovascular risk factors and symptomatic relief by exercise therapy and pharmacological treatments. One of the pharmacotherapeutical options is Ginkgo biloba extract, which is derived from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is a vasoactive agent which is believed to have a positive effect on walking ability in patients with PAD. This review shows that people using Ginkgo biloba could walk 64.5 metres further, which was a non‐significant difference compared with the placebo group. Overall, there is no evidence that Ginkgo biloba has a clinically significant benefit for patients with PAD.

Topical agents or dressings for reducing pain in venous leg ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are often painful, both during and between dressing changes, and during surgical removal of dead tissue (debridement). Dressings, topical creams and lotions have been promoted to reduce the pain of ulcers. Two trials tested a dressing containing ibuprofen, however, the pain measures and time frames reported were different. One trial indicated that pain relief achieved over 5 days with ibuprofen dressings could represent a clinically relevant reduction in pain. The other trial found no significant difference in the chance of pain relief, measured on the first night of treatment, for ibuprofen dressings compared with foam dressings. This trial, however, was small and participants were only followed for a few weeks, which may not be long enough to assess whether the dressing affects healing. There was evidence from five trials that a local anaesthetic cream (EMLA 5%) reduces the post‐procedural pain of debriding leg ulcers but there was insufficient evidence regarding any side effects of this cream and its impact on healing.

Angioplasty versus conservative management of intermittent claudication, leg pain on walking

Intermittent claudication is evident as pain in the leg that becomes apparent when walking and is relieved by rest. The pain is the result of insufficient blood flow to the calf muscles when exercising, generally because of atherosclerotic changes in the leg arteries so that a section becomes narrowed or blocked. People with mild disease are advised to stop smoking, exercise, and take low‐dose aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke. There is no widely accepted medication to treat claudication. Angioplasty involves using a balloon, laser or mechanical device threaded down a leg artery to widen and open the narrowed or blocked section. Possible side effects of the procedure include blood clots and movement of blood clots and debri (emboli). The immediate effect may be to relieve the symptoms but narrowing can reoccur.

See all (144)

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