Doctors provide tips on dealing with leg pain

Published: Saturday, April 13 2013 2:51 p.m. MDT

Dr. Shane Lewis is photographed in his Sandy office on Thursday, April 11, 2013. Dr. Lewis addressed treatment for varicose veins during Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Leg pain can be caused by a many different factors, including varicose veins, peripheral neuropathy, and nerve pain in the spine. It is often best to obtain a physician's evaluation to rule out more serious causes.

Several calls to the Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline on Saturday dealt with leg pain associated with neuropathy, or numbness in the extremities that is often related to other diseases, such as diabetes, according to Dr. Shane Lewis, a surgeon at Intermountain's Alta View Hospital who typically handles patients with varicose veins.

Lewis said it is best to consult a primary care physician in such cases, as they'll be able to treat the underlying conditions.

Lewis and Dr. Joseph Fyans, a specialist in physical medicine at Alta View and Riverton hospitals, fielded several dozen calls from residents across the state, and a few from California, who asked about pain from their lower backs to their toes.

Varicose veins, which are common in men and women of all ages, can cause pain because they inhibit regular blood flow to and from the legs. The bulging, "worm-like" veins can be treated with surgery if symptoms are not relieved by more conservative methods, Lewis said.

More information, he said, can be found online at www.RethinkVaricoseVeins.com.

Lewis recommends compression stockings or sleeves for anyone experiencing trouble, as they can help treat the symptoms of varicose veins and other leg pain, helping to regulate blood flow.

"If someone has a family history of varicose veins or has a job where they are standing a lot of the time, compression stockings can help to prevent it for them," he said, adding that compression stockings won't treat the disease, but just alleviate symptoms.

Fyans, who also works with patients to rehabilitate proper and pain-free movement, said nerves and muscles can spur pain in the legs as well.

Many patients who have gone through joint replacement surgery still complain of leg pain, which can either be a result of the surgery or brought on by the sometimes lengthy inactive period during and after surgery.

"Sometimes they've just been in bed so long that other parts of their bodies start to hurt, and that's something we can look at," Fyans said.

But he encourages all recuperating surgery patients to first obtain a re-evaluation from the doctor who worked on the joint replacement.

Both doctors stressed the importance of regular exercise and activity, which can help prevent problems in the legs. Muscles and joints work better, Lewis said, when they are properly hydrated as well.

Staying active and avoiding dehydration can preempt pain in many cases, specifically sporadic instances of sharp pain. But when pain persists, patients can follow up with Lewis' office by calling 801-501-6100, or Fyans at 801-501-6150.

The health hotline is offered to readers through a partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and the Deseret News. It covers a different health topic the second Saturday of each month.

E-mail: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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