If your leg problem does not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, stiffness or muscle cramps.
- Rest and protect a stiff or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
- For the first 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, or alcoholic beverages.
- After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.
- Compression, or wrapping the sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more swelling below the area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.
- Elevate the area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
- Remove all rings , anklets, or any other jewelry that goes around an extremity. It will be harder to remove the jewelry after swelling develops.
- Gently rub sore or pulled muscles to relieve pain. Do not rub or massage a calf that is swollen.
- Stand and move your legs. Gentle motion may help with cramps that are brought on by exercise.
Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps. For more information about the home treatment of muscle cramps that are often caused by dehydration from exercise or heat, see the topic Dehydration.
For leg cramps, consider wearing support stockings during the day, and take frequent rest periods (with your feet up). If leg cramps occur during pregnancy, make sure you are eating a diet rich in calcium and magnesium. Talk with your doctor about taking a calcium supplement. He or she may recommend a calcium supplement that does not contain phosphorus.
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Reduce stress on your leg (until you can get advice from your doctor):
- Use a cane or crutch in the hand opposite your painful leg.
- Use two crutches, keeping weight off your leg. Canes and crutches can be rented from most pharmacies. Crutches are recommended if a cane causes you to walk with a limp.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment: