The tibia (shinbone) is the large bone of the lower leg, and the fibula is the thin bone along the outer aspect of the lower leg. There are four compartments in the lower leg, each of which includes several muscles along with a nerve, artery, and vein. Each compartment is surrounded by a tissue known as fascia. The muscles in these compartments control motion of the foot and ankle. Many of the thigh muscles attach to the top of the tibia and fibula. Differentiating between specific causes of lower leg pain may be difficult due to overlapping symptoms.
Now that we know what we’re dealing with, here are six of the most common causes of lower leg pain and how to treat and prevent them. The next time you’re wondering, “Why does my leg hurt?” you’ll have some guidance in finding the root cause of the issue.
On clinical examination, there is a specific area of significant bone tenderness. There is pain or even inability to hop on the single leg. X-rays will not reveal abnormalities for at least two weeks and possibly much longer. MRI and three-phase bone scans can detect stress fractures much earlier.
Stress fractures in runners tend to occur in the lower aspect of the fibula and in the upper and lower aspects of the tibia. They can also—though less commonly—occur in the front of the tibia; this stress fracture can be problematic in healing due to the shape of the tibia.