Mild to moderate leg pain may be treated initially with self-care and lifestyle changes. Pain that is severe, does not improve in a couple of weeks, progressively increases, and/or interferes with daily activities must be treated by a medical professional.

Leg pain may be treated by a primary care physician or a specialist doctor. Depending on the underlying cause, nonsurgical or surgical treatment may be required.

Considering Nonsurgical and Surgical Treatments for Leg Pain

Nonsurgical treatments, such as medications, physical therapy and/or epidural steroid injections are generally considered first for treating leg pain.

Surgery may be recommended when nonsurgical treatments are ineffective and one or more of the following factors are present:

  • Severe infection, cancer, or tumors
  • Progressive neurological deficits, such as leg weakness and/or numbness
  • Reduced or complete loss of bowel and/or bladder functions

For a successive surgical outcome, it is necessary for the patient to have a structural condition that is known to be responsive to surgery among other factors.


Medical Professionals Who Treat Leg Pain

Typically, most patients first visit a primary care physician for diagnosis and treatment of leg pain. A primary care physician may include a doctor in family medicine or internal medicine. These doctors provide acute, chronic, and preventive care and prescribe pain medications and/or physical therapy to help manage leg pain and other symptoms.

If necessary, a primary care physician may make a referral to a specialist for further diagnostic tests or treatments.

Specialists who treat leg pain

Some medical professionals have specialized training in treating specific types of leg and/or foot conditions. Medical professionals who treat leg pain include:

  • Specialists who use drug-free, hands-on treatment: Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and chiropractors
  • Specialists who use medications and injection treatments: Physiatrists, osteopathic doctors, rheumatologists, anesthesiologists, neurologists, and pain management specialists
  • Specialists who perform surgical treatment: Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons

Sometimes, mental health therapists such as a psychologist, cognitive behavioral counselor, or a clinical social worker may help manage the signs and symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that can occur with chronic leg pain.


Leg pain and foot pain must be treated promptly to achieve better functioning of the leg and return to normal activity. If left untreated, certain types of leg pain may progress and/or persist, leading to future complications, such as complete loss of function. A doctor can help diagnose the specific cause and formulate an accurate treatment plan for leg pain.

Dr. Adaku Nwachuku is a physiatrist with Privium Consultants, where she specializes in treating musculoskeletal and spine pain. Dr. Nwachuku has been published in the Oxford Handbook of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation as well as in several medical journals. She also coordinates and participates in medical missions to Nigeria.