What Are the Most Common Causes of Burning Leg Pain?

Sciatica is a common cause of pain from the lower back down through the leg.
A man with burning leg pain.
A bulging disc in the spine can compress the sciatic nerve and cause leg pain.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Burning leg pain can refer to many different types of sensations in the legs. A burning feeling, for example, may be the result of paresthesia — or pins and needles — or it may be the result of overuse of the muscles. The pain will feel different in either case, though both sensations may fall under the label or description of burning leg pain. Perhaps one of the most common causes of a burning sensation in the legs is overuse of the muscles, but sciatica may also be the cause of the sensation, as can neurological issues resulting from nerve damage.

Athletes often complain of burning leg pain after intense physical activity. This pain may be the result of muscle overuse. The muscles begin to tense up as they tire, which can lead to a burning or tightening sensation in the legs. The sensation may further be exacerbated by build-up of lactic acid in the legs. Lactic acid is a by-product of spent glycogen, which is the body's preferred fuel source during intense physical activity. As lactic acid builds up, a feeling of stiffness, soreness, or burning in the legs is often felt. Athletes can work to avoid this feeling by building up a lactic acid threshold, which is essentially the amount of time an athlete can spend during physical activity before lactic acid build-up becomes debilitating.

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Sciatica can cause burning leg pain, a pins-and-needles feeling, numbness, or shooting pains throughout each leg. As the sciatic nerve is compressed — often due to tight muscles in the lower back and hips, or due to a bulging or herniated disc in the spine — the leg, hip, and buttocks may sense the pain since the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back through the buttocks and hips and all the way down the back of the leg. The pain from sciatica can be felt all the way down to the bottom of the calf, regardless of where the nerve is actually being compressed. Stretching and exercise usually relieves sciatic pain, though in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue.

If a nerve becomes severely damaged, neurological issues may develop. This may manifest itself as weakness in the legs, a lack of coordination or strength, or intense pain. The pain can be burning leg pain or sharp leg pain, or even dull aches. Neurological issues due to nerve damage is considered a serious condition and should be treated by a doctor immediately.

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anon924780
Post 4

I have really bad leg pain. Very painful, tingling, burning left leg more than the right but the right has it, too. I hustled a bunch on the farm last night so I don't know if that is part of it, but it's killing me. Plus, I just had a local surgery on my chest so my body has been through a lot.

wavy58
Post 3

@DylanB – I have also had extreme leg tingling, but mine was accompanied by a burning sensation. This upper leg pain would happen after I had gone for a fifteen-minute walk.

Every day at lunch, I would go to the park and walk a short distance. Like you, I had been sitting down all morning, so this sudden burst of activity was a shock to my legs.

As soon as I sat back down, my legs would feel warm and tingly all over, sort of like fizzy soda was running through my veins. I could feel a slight throbbing sensation, as well.

I don't think it was anything to worry about, though. Nothing bad ever happened because of it.

DylanB
Post 2

I have felt extreme tingling in my legs before, but I wouldn't define it as actual leg nerve pain. It's more of a numb sensation, and it is strange.

It happens sometimes while I'm just sitting at my desk. I have to sit there for most of the day, though I do get up to go to other offices occasionally.

I think it might be an issue with circulation. I'm probably just not getting enough exercise during the day, and my circulation is getting sluggish.

feasting
Post 1

My sister had sciatic nerve problems, and she said that she would experience severe leg pain that started at her back. It would be a weird mixture of burning and tingling, and sometimes it would just shoot through all the way down to her toe.

She saw a chiropractor, and he helped her somewhat. I think that the special exercises that her physical therapist recommended were more beneficial, though. She has fewer problems with leg pain these days, and she does those exercises a couple of times a week.

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