Monday, August 15, 2022

What Can Cause Nerve Pain In The Legs

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How Do Nerves Work

Our nervous system is made up of two systems, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system . 

The peripheral nerves take messages to and from the brain and spinal cord which interpret the messages and send a responding signal back down to the starting point.  

There are three types of nerves in our bodies:

  • Sensory Nerves: These receive information on different sensations such as hot/cold, sharp/dull, light/heavy pressure
  • Motor Nerves:  These control how the muscles work telling them when, how long and how strongly they should contract and relax
  • Autonomic Nerves:  these control things like bladder and bowel function, heart rate and digestion

Damage to the nerves causes them to behave abnormally.  They may stop sending messages altogether e.g. causing numbness or weakness, or fire erratically, sending excessive or incorrect signals e.g. causing pain or pins and needles.

Possible Causes Of Foot Pain Tingling Nerve Sensations Stemming From The Lower Back

The most common root cause of lower back issues and related foot/leg nerve issues is spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a way to refer to a group of conditions that all have the same effect: narrowing spaces within your spine where nerve conduits travel.

Causes and risk factors of spinal stenosis include:

  • Osteoarthritis The breakdown of cartilage in joints in between the spines vertebrae
  • Bone spurs Bone regrowth in areas of bone that has become worn down, where the new bone has grown in such a way as to place pressure on nerves
  • Bulging/herniated discs A condition where the back has become compressed or stressed to the point where the gelatinous disc in between vertebrae, changing the shape of the vertebrae in such a way that the nerves can get pinched or have pressure put upon them
  • Thickened ligaments Ligaments help connect the vertebrae to form the spinal cord. They can become thickened over time, especially in response to age, stress, or inflammation.
  • Past fractures and injury

When Does It Happen

Since herpetic nerve pain often occurs before an outbreak, it may be a herpes prodrome symptom. Prodrome symptoms are the warning signs you might sometimes get when you are about to have an outbreak.

The good news is that prodrome symptoms can help someone know to start treatment before a full-blown outbreak occurs.

What Causes Nerve Pain

Nerve pain can be due to problems in the central nervous system , or in the nerves that run from there to the muscles and organs. It is usually caused by disease or injury.

Common causes include:

There are other conditions associated with nerve pain.

Sciatica is pressure on the nerves of the lower back that causes pain down the leg. The pain can be accompanied by pins and needles, numbness or weakness in the leg.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome associated with burning or aching pain in different parts of the body. The cause is not well understood, but it can be triggered by emotional distress and poor sleep. There may be genetic factors, too.

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the peripheral nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are damaged. Its caused by diabetes, autoimmune diseases and other conditions.

Signs You Might Have Nerve Damage According To Doctors

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Numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness are just a few symptoms to keep on your radar.

There are billions of nerves in your body. Most of them, your peripheral nerves, are like branches of a tree that spread out all over and transmit messages back to the trunkyour brain and spinal cord. When everything goes smoothly, your brain gets the info it needs so that you can move your muscles, recognize pain, and keep your internal organs working properly.

But when peripheral nerves get damaged, its another story: Walking could become challenging, you might experience unrelenting pain, or you could end up with a serious injury because you had no idea how hot that stove was.

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral nerve damage, a.k.a. neuropathy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Diabetes is the number one cause. Bad luck is number two. Repetitive motion and Lyme disease follow, says Andrew Elkwood, M.D., a surgeon who specializes in nerve reconstruction at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in New York and New Jersey.

Other causes include sudden trauma , aging, vitamin deficiencies, heavy exposure to toxins , and infections and autoimmune disorders like hepatitis C, diphtheria, , Epstein-Barr, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. In some cases, theres no known cause.

Do You Have Burning Pain In Your Thighs

Meralgia paresthetica is a condition in which a nerve in the thigh becomes compressed. This leads to painful burning, tingling, and numbness in the upper thigh. Risk factors for the condition include wearing tight clothes, being overweight or pregnant, or having scar tissue due to surgery in the groin region. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen may provide relief of symptoms. If the pain is severe or lasts for more than a couple of months, see your doctor who can prescribe stronger medication.

Home Remedies For Nerve Pain

Several self-care strategies can help you cope and live better with unexplained nerve pain.

  • Get moving. Regular exercise may expand blood vessels in the feet over time, nourishing damaged nerves back to health. Start with a daily walk and gradually build up pace and distance.
  • Step up foot care. If you have nerve pain in the feet, examine them daily, wear comfortable shoes, and see a podiatrist regularly.
  • Get some sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can be tricky if you have nerve pain. Increase the odds by limiting caffeine intake in the afternoon, keeping a consistent bedtime, and reserving the bedroom for sleep.
  • Explore the mind-body connection. Ask your doctor or a trusted friend for a referral to a reputable professional who provides guided imagery, meditation, biofeedback, or hypnosis.

If your nerve pain isn’t responding to medications and self-care, it may be time to talk to a neuropathic pain specialist. Your primary care doctor will provide a referral, most likely to a neurologist. A neuropathic pain specialist may be familiar with the multiple “off-label” uses of drugs for nerve pain and be able to provide you with additional help.

Why Ms Causes Pain

The nerve pain that people with MS experience can be caused directly by the disease or by related illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.

When its a direct result of MS, the mechanism is through nerve damage. MS attacks the myelin sheath. This is the natural protective covering of your brain, spinal cord, and entire nervous system. Coupled with the development of lesions and plaques in the nervous system, this can lead to pain in the legs and throughout the body.

MS also makes movement and gait, or the process of walking, difficult. As nerve damage worsens, people with MS are likely to experience stiffness and aching.

MS pain can vary from dull and sporadic to stabbing, severe, and constant. In severe cases, small triggers like a or uncomfortable clothing can cause pain in people with MS.

Managing pain usually involves a combination of multiple techniques, including prescribed medications and home remedies. Some of the following treatments may aid in pain relief:

Other Pain Relief Options For Pinched Nerve In Hip

Luckily, most people can heal from a pinched nerve in the hip without specific medical treatment or surgery. There are several things you can do at home for pain relief.1

Pain Medications: Over-the-counter pain pills and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help manage severe pain from a pinched nerve.

Ice and Heat: Applying ice on the painful area reduces swelling. Heat application increases blood circulation and reduces pain. You can alternate between ice and heat.

Lifestyle Modifications: Avoid putting additional pressure on the pinched nerve by not sitting or standing in one position for long periods.

Other Causes Of Pinched Nerve Pain In The Leg

However, injury or damage to the sciatic nerve is just one form of nerve damage that may be causing your symptoms. Here are a few other conditions that present similar leg symptoms:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Usually caused by diabetes, this condition involves damage to nerves in the peripheral nervous systemnerves that supply sensation to the feet and legs.
  • Peroneal Neuropathy: The peroneal nerve is located near the knee and has a tendency to become compressed as the result of injuries to the knee or hip.
  • Lumbosacral Radiculoplexus Neuropathy: Your nerves require a blood supply to stay healthy. Diabetes or inflammation can damage small blood vessels in the legs, reducing the nerves blood supply and causing dysfunction.
  • Neurogenic Claudication: This is a fancy term that means nerve pain that originates directly from spinal nerves and affects the legs. Often, sufferers of neurogenic claudication will experience difficulty walking or report that their legs feel like lead weights.
  • Cauda Equina Syndrome: Compression of a group of nerves that extends from the spinal cord in the lower back to the legs and bladder. This syndrome is usually accompanied by loss of bowel or bladder control and requires immediate medical attention to avoid permanent paralysis of the legs.


What Are The Symptoms

Classic sciatic pain starts in the low back and buttocks. It affects one leg traveling down the back of the thigh, past the knee, and sometimes into the calf and foot. The pain feels worse in the leg than in the back. It may range from a mild ache to severe burning or a shooting pain. Numbness or tingling can occur in your leg and foot. This usually is not a concern unless you have weakness in your leg muscles or foot drop.

Sitting usually causes the most pain because of the weight this position puts onto the discs. Activities, such as bending or twisting, worsen the pain, whereas lying down tends to bring relief. Running or walking may actually feel better than sitting or standing for too long.

Seek medical help immediately if you have extreme leg weakness, numbness in the genital area, or loss of bladder or bowel function. These are signs of a condition called cauda equina syndrome.

Shin Splints Cause Leg Pain

Shin splints are pains that occur along the inside edges of the lower leg, the shinbone . Shin splints occur when tissues and muscles in the area become inflamed during physical activity. Runners are frequently affected by shin splints. Risk factors for the condition include wearing ill-fitting shoes and having flat feet or rigid arches. Treat shin splints by resting your legs, applying ice packs to sore legs in 20 minute intervals several times per day, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers to combat pain and inflammation. See your doctor if shin splints do not resolve or if you suffer from them frequently to make sure nothing else is medically wrong.

Why Do My Legs Suddenly Give Out


A feeling of sudden leg weakness, causing your legs to give out or buckle can be alarming. Weakness in your leg may occur from problems in the nerves and/or muscles in your lower body and is usually treatable. Rarely, the underlying cause may be a serious medical condition requiring immediate medical attention.

A feeling of sudden weakness in the legs may be due to nerve and/or muscle dysfunction. Read:Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Here are a few potential causes for leg weakness resulting in sudden buckling and possible falls.

Stress Fractures Are Painful

One cause of leg pain in the lower legs is a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a small crack in your tibia . When shin splints do not feel like they are getting better, it may be because you have a stress fracture. These injuries are overuse injuries because they occur when muscles surrounding bone are overworked and they do not protect the underlying bone as they should. Treatment for a stress fracture involves staying off the affected limb and resting. It may take between 6 to 8 weeks for the bone to heal completely. It is important to rest if you have a stress fracture. Exercising while the fracture is present can make the injury worse.

Pain That Happens At Night

The timing of the pain is important. As I wrote, leg pain at night has a set of causes that is not identical to pain that happens also at other times. The three main causes to think about are:

  • Lack of blood flow to the muscles. This is probably the most severe option. For artery blockages to cause leg pain at night, they have to be very severe.
  • Calf cramps at night. Muscle cramps are very common. They can be very painful.
  • Neuropathy. Nerve pain is also very common and people tend to feel it mostly during the night.

Simple stretching exercises can prevent night-time cramping.

Where Can I Get More Information

For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by NINDS, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:

Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892 

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the is appreciated.

Get Relief For Your Pain Whatever The Cause

At The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, we provide custom care solutions tailored to the needs of the individual patient. If you’re experiencing pain or other uncomfortable or unusual symptoms, we can help you get the relief you need to feel better. The first step in relieving pain and other symptoms is to schedule an office visit so you can be evaluated. To schedule your evaluation, book an appointment online today.

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Is This Really Muscle Pain

The words that most people use to describe muscle pain are cramping, tight, aching and deep. These may sound unique, but sometimes leg muscle pain is hard to tell from other causes.

Of course, there are times when it is obvious that the cause of pain is from the bones, joints or skin. Also, sometimes it is clear that the pain is a result of peripheral neuropathy. The pain in these conditions is different than muscle pain and there are often other signs that give away the cause. Having said that, some types of pain are hard to localize. For instance, spinal stenosis can cause leg pain when walking that is hard to distinguish from muscle pain from artery blockages.

For this reason, I would never assume that pain is from the muscles, unless it is very obvious. Sometimes, objective testing will not be a mistake to help pinpoint the cause.

How Is Nerve Pain Diagnosed

The main way your doctor will diagnose nerve pain is by listening to you and examining you.

In the examination, they will probably test your nerves by testing the strength of your muscles, checking your reflexes, and by seeing how sensitive it is to touch.

You may be asked to have tests like:

  • blood tests to check your general health and look for underlying conditions
  • nerve conduction studies which measure how quickly your nerves carry electrical signals
  • a CT scan or an MRI scan to look for anything that could be pressing on a nerve

Pain Extending From Your Neck Down Your Arm

Like sciatica, nerve compression in the neck portion of your spine occurs when a nerve in your neck becomes compressed or pinched when it leaves your spine to travel down your arms or into your shoulders. Irritation of a cervical nerve can cause pain and similar symptoms anywhere along the nerve pathway, including your shoulders, the very upper part of your back, your arms, and even your hands. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica

Researchers Reveal 14 Common Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain

The symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Moderate to severe pain in lower back, buttock and down your leg.
  • Numbness or weakness in your lower back, buttock, leg or feet.
  • Pain that worsens with movement; loss of movement.
  • Pins and needles feeling in your legs, toes or feet.
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control .

Common Conditions That Cause Leg Pain

  • Shin splints are commonly seen in runners, those with flat feet, or those with rigid arches. When the muscles surrounding the shin bone become inflamed they cause pain in the legs known as shin splints. 
  • Varicose veins develop when veins have to exert more work to return blood flow back to the heart. These blue, twisted looking veins can develop during pregnancy, from being overweight, or standing and sitting for extended periods of time. Legs can feel heavy, throbbing, and cramp if varicose veins are present. 
  • Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. Arthritis can reside in the knees, hips, and ankles, which can cause pain and discomfort even from everyday activities. There are many treatment options available to help reduce the inflammation and pain that comes with arthritis. 

Are There Other Signs Or Symptoms

I left a very important point for last. Many medical conditions that are important to diagnose present with muscle pain and other symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms can be subtle. Also, it will not always be immediately apparent that they are related to the leg muscle pain. Examples of such symptoms include rash, fever, weight loss, nigh sweats, and neurological symptoms.

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What Causes Radiating Pain

When a body part is damaged or diseased, surrounding nerves send signals to the spinal cord. These signals travel to the brain, which recognizes pain in the damaged area.

However, all the nerves in the body are connected. This means pain signals can spread, or radiate, throughout your body.

The pain can move along a nerves pathway, causing discomfort in other areas of your body that are supplied by that nerve. The result is radiating pain.

How Common Is A Pinched Nerve

Pinched nerves are common; every year about 85 out of 100,000 adults in the United States are affected by pinched nerves. People of any age can experience pinched nerves, but those aged 50 and older are most likely to have them, due to arthritis and degeneration in the spine and other parts of the body.

What Does Sciatica Pain Feel Like

People describe sciatica pain in different ways, depending on its cause. Some people describe the pain as sharp, shooting, or jolts of pain. Others describe this pain as burning, “electric or stabbing.

The pain may be constant or may come and go. Also, the pain is usually more severe in your leg compared to your lower back. The pain may feel worse if you sit or stand for long periods of time, when you stand up and when your twist your upper body. A forced and sudden body movement, like a cough or sneeze, can also make the pain worse.

Leg Pain And Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean

Leg pain can be intermittent or constant and can range from a dull ache to a searing, throbbing, or burning sensation. Numbness may be felt like a loss of sensation or a cold, icy feeling in one or more areas of the leg.

Leg pain may be the symptom of a variety of underlying causes or conditions, and getting a correct diagnosis is essential to informing the most effective course of treatment.

Leg pain often starts as a problem in the lumbar spine, or low back. Watch:Sciatica Causes and Symptoms Video

This article provides an in-depth review of common causes of leg pain, along with prominent symptoms and progression of the pain.

What Treatments Are Available

Treatments depend entirely on the type of nerve damage, symptoms, and location. Your doctor will explain how nerve damage is causing specific symptoms and how to minimize and manage them. With proper education, some people may be able to reduce their medication dose or manage their neuropathy without medications. Definitive treatment can permit functional recovery over time, as long as the nerve cell itself has not died.

Addressing neuropathys causes. Correcting underlying causes can result in the neuropathy resolving on its own as the nerves recover or regenerate. Nerve health and resistance can be improved by healthy lifestyle habits such as maintaining optimal weight, avoiding toxic exposures, eating a balanced diet, and correcting vitamin deficiencies. Smoking cessation is particularly important because smoking constricts the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the peripheral nerves and can worsen neuropathic symptoms. Exercise can deliver more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to far-off nerve endings, improve muscle strength, and limit muscle atrophy. Self-care skills in people with diabetes and others who have an impaired ability to feel pain can alleviate symptoms and often create conditions that encourage nerve regeneration. Strict control of blood glucose levels has been shown to reduce neuropathic symptoms and help people with diabetic neuropathy avoid further nerve damage.

Specific symptoms can usually be improved

What Are Some Nonsurgical Sciatica Treatments

8 Easy Yoga Poses to Relieve Sciatica Pain in 16 Minutes ...

Most patients with sciatica symptoms or lumbar radiculopathy improve over time and respond well to non-surgical treatments, such as medication, exercise and special sciatica stretches, and physical therapy . Spinal manipulation, such as chiropractic care, also can help reduce sciatica symptoms. In most cases, sciatica gets better in 4 to 6 weeks.

Standard treatments for sciatica include PT, exercise, avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms, as well as OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , Dr. Wang says. If that doesnt work and the pain is acute, the next step is usually injection of an epidural steroid injection or a nerve root block.

In some cases, a short course of oral steroids may be considered before trying steroid injections. Under a doctor or healthcare providers advice, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce swelling and sciatic pain. There are many types of OTC medication, such as acetaminophen , ibuprofen , or naproxen .

Sciatica Symptoms Or Something Else

Sciatica isnt the only reason for pain in the legs, ofcourse. Other conditions can mimic sciatica:

  • Vascular disease: Narrowing of the bloodvessels in the legs can cause pain and cramps and might make it hard to walk.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Small nerves inthe legs can become damaged, causing burning, pain, tingling or numbness in thefoot or lower leg. This type of nerve damage is often related to diabetes,alcohol use disorder or other medical conditions.
  • Peroneal neuropathy: An injury to the peroneal nerve below the knee can cause weakness and make it hard to lift the foot.

How can you tell if youre dealing with sciatica orsomething else? Sciatica tends to affect the length of the leg, not just thefoot. And most often, that pain radiates downward from top to bottom, Dr.Thomas says.

Another clue: Sciatica usually strikes just one side. If you have pain in both legs, it is less likely a disc herniation, but more likely due to degenerative changes like spinal stenosis, he says.

Peripheral Neuropathy And Pain

Peripheral nerves are nerves are those that are outside of the brain and spinal cord. Damage to to peripheral nerves causes a condition called peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy. This is known as diabetic neuropathy. Other conditions can cause it. So can infections and the use of certain medications. Peripheral neuropathy in the legs can cause sensations of numbness, weakness, and tingling . Diabetic neuropathy can also cause foot pain. Treating the underlying cause may resolve the condition. Medications are available to treat nerve pain.

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