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Health Hotline: Leg pain treatments can help maintain active lifestyle

Published: Friday, April 12 2013 2:06 p.m. MDT

Dr. Joseph Fyans, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation with Intermountain Healthcare, is photographed at the Riverton Hospital on Thursday, April 11, 2013. Fyans will be addressing leg pain on Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Leg pain can have lots of causes, but a physician's goal is often to return every patient to full activity, no matter the route of treatment.

"I like to be an educator when it is not a clear-cut situation. I like to let the patient sit in the driver seat. It's a co-leadership situation to solve their pain problems," said Dr. Joseph Fyans, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation with Intermountain Healthcare.

Fyans said leg pain can be tricky to diagnose, as it can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle, joint, nerve and sometimes skeletal issues.

"It takes a good conversation with the patient," he said. "We rely a lot on their history. In the majority of cases, what the patient shares will lead you down the right path."

Fyans and Dr. Shane Lewis, a surgeon at Intermountain's Alta View Hospital, will be featured on Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, taking questions about leg pain and the symptoms and treatment for varicose veins. From 10 a.m. until noon, anyone interested is welcome to call 800-925-8177 or post a question on the Deseret News Facebook page, www.facebook.com/deseretnews.

Leg pain, Fyans said, can involve the entire limb or be isolated to a specific area, such as the thigh, knee or foot. Sometimes it is a stabbing, shooting pain, producing an electric, burning sensation when in use, or it can be a dull, deep ache that is hard to pinpoint.

At times, nerves or joints in the back cause radiating pain down the legs.

"It can run the full gamut," Fyans said.

Treatment of leg pain can involve oral medications to reduce inflammation or nerve pain, physical therapy to take pressure off a nerve, steroid injections to provide temporary relief, and surgery ultimately may be the best option for some people.

Nontraditional or complementary methods of treatment for pain can also include acupuncture, use of a chiropractor and massage therapy. Fyans said he and the patient address the pain on a case-by-case basis.

"My underlying approach has always been that less is better," he said. "It's better not to do too much and cause a new problem or cause excessive expense."

But putting off treatment can lead to worsening symptoms, making the issue harder to treat, Fyans said. Sometimes pain channels in the brain can become ingrained, and those are harder to fix.

"Ideally, getting the problem identified earlier and treating it thoroughly is the key to getting better sooner," he said, adding that recovery outcomes also depend on the individual.

"We like to celebrate any little progress along the way," Fyans said. "Our goal is to get you back to doing the things you enjoy, keep people active and enjoying their lives."

E-mail: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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