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What Is Causing My Leg Weakness?

Have you ever heard the expression…” going weak at the knees?” It’s usually referencing your body’s reaction to an exciting or nervous situation. Truth is, leg weakness can be very common. Research indicates that 12 percent of adults actually experience unsteady legs for no reason; it’s just something that can sometimes happen. It can be as simple as perhaps you need to improve your exercise routine to strengthen your leg muscles. There are some very ordinary and non-worrisome causes, like leg cramps, or shin splints caused by tightened muscles. Typically, that means you may have exercised without proper warm-up or cool-down, and you need to hydrate more. Even psychological conditions like stress can cause a heavy, tired leg feeling because of how stress affects your muscles.

However, sudden onset of recurring leg weakness or intense pain with weak or shaky legs can be a sign of a bigger issue requiring medical attention.

Contact National Spine & Pain Centers to schedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist today.

Causes of Leg Weakness

Noticeable weakness or shakiness in your legs can have a myriad of medical explanations, which is why you should always seek the diagnosis of a board-certified pain specialist from the National Spine & Pain Centers. There can be many conditions creating the issue. For example, the cause of lower leg pain could be tendonitis, causing pain in your calf, a condition usually treated with home remedies. Or you may have weakness in the legs due to a sprain or even a broken bone, which will require quick medical attention.

You never want to ignore leg weakness or shakiness because while there may be rational, clear-cut explanations why you are experiencing issues, there are some obscure conditions that only health professionals will be able to properly diagnose, like a rare and unusual disorder called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Medical experts say it is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. Experts from the Mayo Clinic concur that CRPS typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack. CRPS is uncommon and not clearly understood. Treatment is most effective when started early. In such cases, improvement and even remission are possible.

There are many more clear-cut problems that give reason to never ignore signs your body is giving you. Another serious issue is that leg weakness could be a sign of a heart condition. People will often experience shaky or weak legs when dealing with vascular issues in the leg, like deep vein thrombosis or blood clots. Clots are very serious if untreated because they could break off into the bloodstream and travel to an artery in the lungs, blocking blood flow. Or you may have varicose veins, which appear as dark blue or purple veins at the surface of the skin caused by weak vein valves. Doctors also see peripheral arterial disease present with lower leg pain and cramps. This occurs when arteries in the legs become damaged or hardened, preventing a healthy blood flow.

A sudden weakness in the legs, arms, or face can also be a sign of a stroke. This occurs when the blood supply to your brain is cut off because of a blockage or a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Usually, a stroke will have other noticeable symptoms like difficulty speaking, confusion, headache, or face droop. Seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur.

Many of these vascular conditions are caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and smoking. Doctors will treat these conditions with blood thinners, clot busters, and compression stockings and encourage a change in diet and increased activities to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Besides vascular issues, nerves and nerve damage can be the source of your lower leg pain and weakness. Issues involving the spinal cord are the most prevalent source of leg weakness. A narrowed spinal canal, or stenosis, puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. You might experience pain, tingling, heaviness or weakness in the legs. Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.

The types of spinal stenosis are classified according to where on the spine the condition occurs and are called:

Cervical stenosis – narrowing occurs in your neck.

Lumbar stenosis – narrowing occurs in your lower back.

There are other causes of spinal stenosis besides osteoarthritis, including thickened ligaments, tumors, spinal injuries, and herniated disc problems. These discs are soft cushions that act as shock absorbers between your vertebrae, and the discs tend to dry out with age. Sometimes, discs can slip out of place, causing pain and weakness in the legs due to a compressed nerve.

Get the Help You Need

Weakness or shaking in the legs is common and no cause for alarm as long as it is not accompanied by a sudden onset, prolonged pain, or pain in other areas of the body. If you are experiencing any of these problems, book an appointment with one of our affiliated pain specialists at National Spine & Pain Centers to get a proper diagnosis.

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