Painful calf/shin/knees and ankles - one leg at a time!
April 14, 2016 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I have pain in my right leg in my lower calf and ankle. It feels both like a pain in my muscles as well as a joint pain in my ankle.

Massage is helping a little bit but it still really hurts. It’s not a super dull or super sharp pain, it’s somewhere in the middle. Also, at this moment I'm pain-free in the knees, but I often have painful knees, especially my left knee! All of a sudden it’ll feel sore, overused and just not good. I’m in my early twenties and a female who has worn crazy 5-6 inch heels and danced/walked around in them for hours. Mostly nowadays its either wedges or flats though, but maybe not super high quality ones. :/

I’m going to go home, stretch and massage my right leg and foot. Other than that, any tips? Can you recommend some stretches or help for prevention? This happens every so often and goes away but now the pain is getting pretty bad. I have skinny chicken legs and tiny ankles but I’m heavier on top so maybe that’s what it is? I’m putting too much pressure?

Any help and guidance you’d provide would be great!
posted by rhythm_queen to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Man this is just not enough information to know what to do or what's wrong. Go to your doctor/get a referral to an orthopedist or a physical therapist. Good physical therapy is really, really good. They can figure out what's actually wrong and help you figure out what you need to do to fix it in the short term and prevent it in the long term.
posted by brainmouse at 12:38 PM on April 14, 2016

I agree with brainmouse that you need to make an appointment with a medical professional. In the meantime, stop wearing cute shoes. Boring, square toe boxes with wide enough widths. No heel of any kind. But don't get those fold up ballet flats with no arch support, either. You want a shoe that has a supporting curve for your arch without a heel. You should be able to wiggle your toes inside the toe box. I would also resist reinforcing/supporting apparatuses until directed to wear something by a professional. Find a comfortable, quality shoe that's work appropriate and get it in black, blue, and brown if you have to. I know it sucks and that shoes are awesome, but heels are seriously awful for you orthopedically. Don't risk aggravating your condition for the sake of fashion.
posted by xyzzy at 12:56 PM on April 14, 2016

hmmm, we need more information. when asking medical related questions,it's helpful to look at an anatomy chart to help identify specific muscle groups

for now, immobility for the next 12 hours + rest and + ice. You can rotate out ice packs in shifts if it's too intense, meaning ice for a bit, take a break, ice some more.

you may be a heel striker when you walk, especially when walking fast, or your body is finally pissed about the years of dancing in heels and is requesting some arch support, some impact cushioning and probably (eventually) simple strength exercises.

Knee pain has a lot of branches that fractal out pretty quickly... because it cycles in and out, but happens on both sides it could be something like fluid retention. Keep a notebook and write down all of the things that you do and eat for a week and see if patterns emerge.

Our frames are overbuilt so we can carry extra weight, but it's not ideal and there are always going to be weak spots where we flex.

The older you get, the harder it becomes to keep your joints in great shape and it simultaneously gets harder to understand why you are no longer invincible.

Start with ice and rest. If it still hurts 24 hours from now, see a doctor.
posted by bobdow at 1:00 PM on April 14, 2016

I had to stop running from calf pain, just could not stretch enough to work out what was happening. Strong tight compression sleeves have really helped for vigorous biking a walking.

You didn't say how recently you "went off" heels, but muscles do adjust but it's not a weeks long thing but many months into years. Frustrating but unless there's an unusual injury it will get better.

Stretch, ice, warmth, compression, all good when done carefully. Consider one of those exercise rollers to work out kinks.
posted by sammyo at 1:14 PM on April 14, 2016

The other thing about "going off heels" is that wearing heels can cause the achilles tendon to actually shorten. Standing calf raises, while done on stairs can help with the re-strengthening of the achilles tendon (specifically studies have shown the eccentric portion helps speed the strengthening of this tendon). Calf stretches would also probably be a good thing, do them both with your knee bent, and straight. Studies say NSAIDS will not benefit healing time. Generally the same mechanisms which prevent one from feeling pain also limit/lessen the body's healing mechanisms. As such, if you can go without pain killers, that's advised.

re: icing. Joint-y areas can take less icing than meaty muscles. Muscles I've always seen recommended to do "up to" 20 minutes per 2 hours (or 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, 10 minutes on, then wait at least 2 hours to start again). For the ankle itself, I'd not want to do more than 10 minutes per 2 hours.

Definitely agree on seeing a PT.

Additional reading: .
posted by nobeagle at 1:33 PM on April 14, 2016

Regardless of the advice you get here, you need and want to see a physical therapist.

However, with the hope that it will give you a better idea of the possible sources of your knee pain, I will tell you about my own experiences. I'm not much older than you, so similar to you my issues are less likely to be degenerative in nature.

For one, when I get knee pain (on the outside of my knee), it is because my hip flexors and IT (illiotibial) band are tight and need deep stretching. Your IT band connects your hip to your knee. If your hips are tight, it can cause everything from back pain to knee pain to tight hamstrings and tight achilles tendons. In fact, the hips are so critical that I often focus my yoga poses on hip openers before I address my hamstrings, calves or achilles tendon.

This talks about IT Band Syndrome. You don't necessarily have to be a runner to have this or a related issue.

Since you wear heels, I would strongly suggest purchasing Yoga Toes. These things have been a GODSEND for me. It's almost as good as a foot massage - you feel like someone just "opened up" your feet and liberated them. I use Yoga Toes, but I also (while standing) use a tennis ball to massage the underside of my foot. More importantly, I do a series of foot stretches twice a day. Here are some examples.

Do you have fallen arches (pes planus)? I do, which is all the more reason to keep my feet flexible.

In addition to starting a yoga regimen ("yoga" is an AskMeFi cliche for a very good reason!), I would also encourage you to purchase a yoga strap/belt to assist you in your stretches. This one is good, and ideal for stretching your inner and outer calves in addition to your hamstrings. It will allow you to build your way up to deeper stretches.

IANAD, this is not medical advice, see your doctor/a physical therapist to guide you in what is best for you. Good luck!
posted by nightrecordings at 4:07 PM on April 14, 2016

Just read that Vitamin D deficiency causes this and that most Americans are deficient, many severely. This is being discovered now because, in recent years, the cost of test has come way down.
posted by R2WeTwo at 5:00 AM on April 15, 2016

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