Leg injures are common and can affect the upper (thigh) or lower (shin) leg. Leg injuries can occur to any part of the leg including skin, muscles, or the bones themselves. Hip, knee and ankle injures involve a joint and may be treated differently. So it’s no surprise that at Henry Ford, our board-certified sports medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists treat hundreds of athletes for leg pain every year. When you visit us for treatment, you’ll receive reliable, personalized care designed to get you back in the game as quickly as possible — whether you’re a Detroit Lion or aspiring to be one.
When to see a doctor
When you are first injured, the Henry Ford sports medicine team recommends the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If you think you have a severe injury or if your leg pain persist after a few days, contact a doctor immediately.
Reasons to see a doctor for a leg injury include:
- Redness not going away
- Worsening bruising
- Tenderness in a specific area
- Trouble walking
- Cannot put any weight on the injured leg
How we treat leg injuries
When you come to Henry Ford with a leg injury, a sports medicine physician will begin by performing a complete physical exam and going over your medical history. If necessary, we’ll arrange an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to make an accurate diagnosis. After a diagnosis has been made, we’ll design a custom treatment plan that may involve physical therapy or — as a last resort — surgery.
R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) — When a leg injury first occurs, patients should rest the affected area to prevent further injury from occurring; ice it to reduce pain; compress it to reduce swelling; and elevate the injured leg above the heart to also reduce pain, swelling and recovery time. RICE is used right after the injury, usually for three to five days.
Physical Therapy — Many leg injuries can be treated with physical therapy once swelling and bruising have improved, either on its own or in conjunction with surgery. For recovering patients, Henry Ford’s rehabilitation team takes a multidisciplinary approach, combining exercise and strength training with manual therapy at more than 20 outpatient facilities across southeast and south central Michigan.
Anti-inflammatory medication — Over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin and Alleve can often help reduce leg pain from minor sprains and aid in initial recovery.
*Non-surgical treatment is used for most leg injuries like bruises, muscle strains (pulls) and tears. Most overuse injuries like tendonitis (tendon inflammation) are treated without surgery.
Tendon Repair -- Tendons may become torn or detached from a bone. Torn tendons usually happen close to a joint like hamstring/quadriceps/patellar tendon tears. The need for surgery is usually due to the amount of tendon torn.
Compartment Release -- Muscles are surrounded by tissue to hold them in place called fascia. Sometimes the muscles can become so swollen the fascia prevents blood from entering the muscle. The fascia has to be cut to prevent permanent muscle damage.
Stress Fracture Surgery — In sports, stress fractures are common in the leg, particularly in the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (located next to the tibia). To heal a stress fracture, surgery may be required that involves metal plates, screws or rods.