Patients suffering from lower leg pain are frequently seen in physiotherapy practice, particularly in athletes or those involved in sports participation. Pain may be caused by local structures within the calf or shin, or, may be referred from other sources (such as the lower back, knee or ankle).

Sudden onset calf pain often occurs in athletes or individuals involved in fast moving change-of-direction sports and those sports which involve rapid acceleration and deceleration (such as squash, tennis, football, soccer and basketball). The most common cause of sudden onset calf pain is a Calf Strain (Gastrocnemius) whilst the most likely cause of sudden onset shin pain is a shin contusion typically occurring due to a collision with a hard object such as a football boot.

Gradual onset lower leg pain often occurs in those patients involved in sports or activities that involve high running loads often in combination with poor foot biomechanics. One of the most common causes of this exercise related gradual onset shin pain is Shin Splints.

There are numerous other causes of lower leg pain, some of which present suddenly due to a specific incident, others which develop gradually over time. Calf pain originating from serious conditions such as a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a possibility (particularly in patients with swelling or colour change of the affected leg, foot or ankle or warmth over the affected area) and if suspected, must be immediately ruled out by a doctor – particularly when risk factors such as recent travel, oral contraception use or recent surgery are present

Below are some of the more common causes of lower leg pain with a brief description of each condition to aid diagnosis. Conditions have been organised according to sudden or gradual onset and common or less common conditions for ease of use.

Find out what may be causing your lower leg pain: