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Endometriosis and Leg Pain

Medically Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on September 06, 2020

Painful periods and uncomfortable sex are some of the better-known symptoms of endometriosis. So you might be surprised if your legs start to hurt, too. But endometriosis leg pain is pretty common. The good news is it’s treatable. Here’s what you need to know.

Causes

When you have endometriosis, tissue similar to the kind that grows in your uterus grows in places it shouldn’t. It might take root around your ovaries and fallopian tubes. It also acts like the tissue in your uterus. That means it swells during your period, then breaks down and bleeds. The problem is there’s no way for it to leave your body like the tissue in your uterus. It hurts when it swells up. That’s why you get pain with your periods and other symptoms.

If endometriosis continues to spread inside your pelvis, it can pull or put pressure on nerves in your back or upper legs. It may press on the sciatic nerve. That runs from your lower back down each leg. Or it may irritate the obturator nerve in your thigh.

Ovarian cysts can also lead to leg pain. Doctors call this referred pain, which can come from several areas in your belly or pelvis. The discomfort comes from certain nerves your ovaries and legs share. You’ll usually feel it in the leg that’s on the same side as the affected ovary. It’s the more common cause of pain related to endometriosis.

Symptoms

Endometriosis leg pain feels like a throbbing or stabbing sensation. It may get worse when you walk or exercise. Some women say the pain starts a couple of days before their period, peaks during their cycle, and stops once their period is over.

Pain from the sciatic nerve can spread from your lower back down one or both legs. You might feel it in your butt, hips, and thighs, or all the way down to your foot.

Pain from the obdurator nerve affects the front of your thigh. Pain from the femoral nerve that's near your groin travels down the front and side of your thigh.

At first, you may only feel pain during your period. But the pain could become constant if you don’t treat it.

Diagnosis

The doctor will look at your body and ask about your symptoms. Endometriosis leg pain is sometimes mistaken for tendinitis or another injury. They’ll want to rule out more serious causes of leg pain, like peripheral artery disease or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Treatment

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen may soothe nerve pain. Prescription birth control pills that ease endometriosis symptoms might help with nerve pain, too.

Your doctor may suggest laparoscopic surgery. That’s when they put you to sleep and make a small cut near your belly button. The doctor puts a small scope with a light and camera on the end through the opening. The scope helps your doctor spot endometrial tissue and take it out. This can take pressure off your nerves and improve leg pain. It’s important to find a surgeon who’s treated nerve pain from endometriosis before.

You can also try alternative treatments like acupuncture. That’s a type of traditional Chinese medicine where your doctor puts very thin needles in different parts of your body. It’s thought to stimulate your nerves and tissues, and help manage pain.

Talk to your doctor about your options. Together, you’ll decide on which treatment is best for you.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "Pay Attention to Leg Pain."

Brigham & Women's Hospital: "Surgical Treatment of Endometriosis: Excision and Destruction."

Endometriosis Foundation: "Endometriosis Symptoms: Neuropathy."

European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology: "Prevalence and severity of cyclic leg pain in women with endometriosis and in controls -- effect of laparoscopic surgery."

Fertility and Sterility: "Pain in the upper anterior-lateral part of the thigh in women affected by endometriosis: study of sensitive neuropathy."

Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: "A Model for Radiating Leg Pain of Endometriosis." "A pilot study of the prevalence of leg pain among women with endometriosis."

Mayo Clinic: "Acupuncture." "Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)." "Endometriosis: Symptoms & causes." "Sciatica: Symptoms & causes." "Sciatic nerve."

NHS: "Endometriosis."

WomensHealth.gov: "Endometriosis."

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