While some women have uneventful menstrual cycles, others may not be so lucky. They experience severe discomfort and a host of other symptoms, including leg pain. This article provides some information about the causes of leg pain during periods.
Menstruation is often associated with pelvic pain, cramps, back pain, bloating, sore breasts, irritability, etc. Pain in legs is another symptom that is experienced by menstruating women. Such leg pain can be caused by different reasons, which can be normal or abnormal. In some cases, severe menstrual cramps and leg pain may indicate gynecologic disorders.
Pain caused by uterine contractions (during menstruation) may radiate to the lower back and upper legs. The pelvic region has a network of nerves, and so, pain that develops at one point may radiate to other regions that are located within the network. This is the basic reason for leg pain associated with menstruation. Some women develop leg cramps during periods. This could be due to the reduced level of minerals like iron, potassium, and magnesium. Women with a heavy menstrual flow may develop such cramps, as they lose significant amount of blood.
Dysmenorrhea (Painful Periods): Excessive pain and associated symptoms during menstruation is not uncommon. The condition is called dysmenorrhea, which is the medical term that denotes painful periods. Stomach cramps, back pain, pain in legs, nausea, and headaches, are among the common symptoms. Dysmenorrhea is classified into two types – primary and secondary. While symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea are considered normal, those associated with secondary dysmennorrhea may indicate underlying medical conditions.
Primary Dysmenorrhea (High Prostaglandin Level)
Women with this condition experience painful periods due to intense uterine contractions, which in turn is caused by a high level of prostaglandins. These chemicals are produced by the lining of the uterus, and are responsible for uterine contractions. As the level of prostaglandins increases, uterine contractions (during menstruation) become more intense, thereby causing severe pelvic pain and associated symptoms. So, it is natural for the pain to radiate to the back and the legs. Women with primary dysmenorrhea may experience severe pain in legs during periods.
Primary dysmenorrhea is mostly seen in women, who are below the age of 30. The condition is often associated with obesity, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, early puberty (before the age of 11), irregular periods, excess menstrual flow, stress, sedentary lifestyle, etc. Women with a family history of painful periods are also prone to the condition. Women who have never been pregnant may also develop primary dysmenorrhea. Usually, the condition subsides once the girl crosses adolescence. In mature women, the condition may ease after childbirth. So, primary dysmenorrhea is not caused by underlying medical conditions, and is associated with the normal process of menstruation.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea (Underlying Medical Conditions)
Dysmenorrhea is categorized as secondary, if it is caused by underlying medical conditions, like some gynecologic disorders. Usually, this condition develops in adult women. The underlying medical conditions that cause secondary dysmennorhea are listed below.
Endometriosis: The endometrial tissues that form the inner lining of the uterus, grow outside the uterine cavity. This causes painful periods, along with heavy bleeding and other symptoms. Leg pain during menstruation is mostly associated with uterosacral, sciatic, and cystic ovarian endometriosis.
Uterine Fibroids: They are benign tumors that grow inside the uterus. While small fibroids may not cause any symptom, large ones can exert pressure on the nerves, thereby causing pain that radiates to the legs and back. Such pain may aggravate during menstruation, but may develop at other times too. The condition may also cause numbness in legs.
Other Causes: Secondary dysmenorrhea and associated leg pain can be caused by adenomyosis, infection of the reproductive organs, ovarian cysts, abnormal pregnancy, iron-deficiency anemia, use of IUD (intrauterine device), etc. Even those with a narrow cervix may develop painful periods.
If you experience severe leg pain during periods, consult a gynecologist to rule out the possibility of underlying medical problems. Leg pain associated with secondary dysmenorrhea can be relieved by treating the underlying disorder. Usually, NSAIDs are used for management of primary dysmenorrhea symptoms. Oral contraceptives or alternative therapies may prove useful for some women.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.