Very sharp, searing pain in lower leg above ankle
September 1, 2014 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I am in a lot of pain. You are not my doctor, but I was wondering if anyone has felt similar symptoms. This morning when I woke up, it seemed as if a very large spider was biting a very specific spot on my lower right leg, sort of below the calf but above the ankle, and in the front (pic of location of pain here). In terms of pain, it is 10/10. The pain lasts for 5-10 seconds, then fades away. Throughout the day, it has returned.

I ran some errands in town and walked around for about 45 minutes -- for that period of time, I felt no pain. It seems to return when I sit for too long or lie down. I have taken some ibuprofen and am currently icing it. What on earth could this be, and have any of you experienced anything similar?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
I can't see your image, but is it possible that it's a Charley horse? Those can be truly excruciatingly painful.
posted by brainmouse at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't experienced this, and not to frighten you, but a friend of mine had sharp, intense, intermittent leg pain like this with no injury, and it turned out to be a blood clot. It might be worth passing by urgent care just in case. (She was taking birth control pills - which likely caused it - and was in an at-risk group, fwiw.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

If that image doesn't work, perhaps this one does. It's not a muscle pain (so I doubt it's a charley horse) -- it feels like the nerves in that spot are being stabbed. Very strange. I considered blood clot but I don't think they start down by the foot like that.

And yes, I agree completely, if the pain continues (particularly if I can't sleep) then I will visit Urgent Care. Wanted to see if the hive mind had some ideas before I headed in, though.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:30 AM on September 1, 2014

Blood clots can be anywhere. If the pain moves or intermittent you could be in danger of it moving. Get thee to an ER. If it is nothing oops. If it's something then you've potentially saved yourself from problems.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:35 AM on September 1, 2014 [12 favorites]

An urgent care will most likely send you to an ER anyway with no obvious injury.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:39 AM on September 1, 2014

Can you provoke the pain by pressing/rubbing/scratching? How large is the area of the pain? Quarter, tennis ball? I don't know how large a very large spider is to you.

I have had a similar pain that turned out to be the very early stages of an ingrown hair. There was zero redness and swelling for at least a day, maybe closer to two, after the pain started, and it wasn't until a day or so in that I could kind of make it twinge by scratching around the area.

It was extremely unsatisfying in the end - it came to a tiny head, popped, healed. Absolutely disproportionate to the crazy pain.

If you've got someone else around who can get down there a bright light and a magnifying glass, they might be able to tell if any of your hair pores or the skin look at all disturbed.

But while that would be a less-usual place for a blood clot, you can theoretically get them anywhere (or get them anywhere and then not feel them until they are somewhere else, or feel them strangely because of nerve stuff) would not be terrible to get checked out.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:39 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you provoke the pain by pressing/rubbing/scratching? How large is the area of the pain? Quarter, tennis ball?

No, pressing the area does nothing. It just comes and go randomly. I'd say the pain area is about quarter sized. The icing has been very helpful, it has not flared up since I've had the ice on it. Thanks everyone for ideas and suggestions. I am not sure I should drive, since the pain is in the right leg; my partner returns in a bit from work and I will ask her to take me.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:53 AM on September 1, 2014

I would go to the ER too with those symptoms.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:59 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it is a blood clot at this point in time your leg is a TIME BOMB. A clot can migrate and get stuck in your lungs or cause a stroke. At any moment. Go NOW.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:00 AM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

I am not a doctor, I am not your doctor and I think going to the urgent care is a good idea. At the same time, that is a very unusual location for a deep vein thrombosis, since it doesn't seem to be over one of the major deep leg veins. It's also unusual for a DVT to cause sharply defined pain in a small area - as far as I know from being evaluated for one by several doctors, they tend to look for more diffuse pain. It's true that blood clots can be anywhere, but I would think it unusual for - for instance - you to have a massive DVT which was clogging up all all your veins to the point where the smaller "big" vein which serves that part of the calf was also messed up, but only to have intermittent well-defined pain in a quarter-sized area and no other symptom.

Nerve injury of some kind or a weird ingrown hair seem more possible to me, but if you're looking at 10/10 pain it seems wise to visit the doctor.

(Why would I have an opinion on this? Two evaluations for DVT in the ER based on calf pain after flying, one which resulted in ultrasound, one which did not.)
posted by Frowner at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had the pain you are describing in my left leg in the exact same spot and it was diagnosed as sciatica. It was very painful in the one spot for a few days and then went into the back of my heel. It got so bad I was dragging my left leg.

In my case, sitting, laying flat and standing in one place made it worse. Walking every hour, taking Aleve and Flexaril really helped. I also used Lidocaine patches and ice.

It sounds like nerve pain to me but I am not a Doctor. I would have it checked out.
posted by cairnoflore at 12:37 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, I was going to suggest sciatica. It sounds like strong nerve pain, so this is what I'd be looking at. But it's all speculation here, like others I AM NOT A DOCTOR.
posted by VikingSword at 1:44 PM on September 1, 2014

I have had a blood clot, and while it hurt like crazy, two things made it different from what you describe: 1) it got MUCH WORSE when standing or walking (basically elevation helped the pain and lowering my leg made it worse) and 2) my leg was hotter and pink below the clot. My understanding it that these things are typical with a clot.

So, I don't think your leg is a ticking time bomb.
posted by anastasiav at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a doctor, but I can't diagnose anyone over the internet or give anyone medical advice in a forum like this. But in terms of general information about DVTs, I would like to point out that not all people experiencing non-traumatic leg pain need be frightened that their leg is a ticking time bomb. DVTs cannot actually happen in any part of the body, only where there is a deep vein for them to form in. The deep veins in the leg start in the area of the calf and travel upwards behind the knee, into the thigh and then the groin. Pain in the foot or the ankle is not near a deep vein. Not going to say that it's impossible that pain in a quarter sized area just above the ankle could be related to a DVT, because the human body can be a strange thing. But it certainly isn't likely, especially if not accompanied by any of the other symptoms of DVT (swelling, redness), and especially in a person with no known risk factors for DVT (cancer, hormone treatments, immobilization of the limb) and telling the OP that they are risking death at any moment if they don't go to the ER immediately, i.e. via ambulance, seems a little extreme. Ambulances aren't cheap for many people in the USA.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:23 PM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I talked to two doctor friends yesterday afternoon and they were both pretty unconcerned. They figured either sciatica (or pinched nerve) or beginning of shingles. Both recommended ice, ibuprofen, and stretching. I iced it before going to bed for about an hour and was able to sleep through the night. I woke up this morning and haven't had any pain in that spot since I woke up about 3 hours ago.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:07 AM on September 2, 2014

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