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What Can Cause Shooting Pain In Legs?

Leg pain may begin from the buttocks, thighs, along the legs and until ankles and the feet. Shooting pain in legs is commonly experienced by many people in various instances. It may be felt as sharp and sudden pain with or without burning or numb sensation. Sometimes, shooting leg pain may be seen after overexertion, injuries or on some occasions, it may also be noted after long periods of rest. It may be along the front or back side of the legs.

What can Cause Shooting Pain in Legs?

Here Are Some Causes of Shooting Pain in Legs:

Injuries as a Cause for Shooting Pain in Legs

Injuries to the bone, muscles, tendons, ligaments or other soft tissues around the joints of the leg, can cause shooting pain in the legs. Fractures of the shin bone, hip and other bone injuries cause sharp, shooting pain around the injured part. Overuse injuries to the tendons, muscles of thighs and calf, commonly cause shooting pain in legs, particularly due to inadequate warm up and stretching.

Some injuries to the legs and especially back of legs can cause excessive swelling and shooting pain. It can even affect the blood circulation to that area and cause pain.

Nerve Related Disorders Causing Shooting Leg Pain

Nerve related pain, commonly termed as neuropathic or neurogenic pain, is a common cause of shooting pain in legs. It is noted when nerves originating from the back and supplying the legs are involved. Sciatica or sciatic nerve pain is a common cause resulting in shooting pain in legs.

Injury to the nerves, intervertebral disc prolapse or nerve damage in diabetics, alcoholics and smokers causing peripheral neuropathy can lead to shooting type of leg pain. Sometimes, shooting leg pain can be seen, due to compression of the nerve after sitting for long.

Shooting pain is specifically observed in the area and the side supplied by the affected nerve. It may be associated with a burning sensation or a feeling of numbness and tingling. Another feature of shooting leg pain from neurogenic origin is that only one side may be affected, depending on the involvement of the nerve.

Being nerve related, there can also be weakness of the body part supplied by the affected nerve. Weakness is commonly seen in lower legs, bowel and bladder control may be affected when nerves originating from the back and supplying the lower part of the body are involved.

Shooting Pain in the Legs Caused due to Bone and Joint Disorders

Leg pain may arise due to musculoskeletal problems like arthritis of the hip, knee or ankle. These may be associated with inflammation and swelling of the affected joint. Osteoarthritis of the knee, ankle, rheumatoid arthritis or gout can cause swelling and sometimes shooting pain.

Conditions related to the spine that affect the nerves can cause shooting pain in legs. For example, conditions like herniated disc, spinal stenosis, lumbar spondylosis, spondylolisthesis and other problems causing low back pain or sciatica. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction or any injury or disease affecting the joint can upset the sciatic nerve course and cause shooting leg pain.

Any growth, tumor or other conditions affecting the spine that obstructs the blood flow or compresses the nerve can cause shooting type of leg pain.

Muscles Spasms as a Cause of Shooting Pain in Legs

Muscle tear or ligament strain, or muscle fatigue from excessive strain or exercise can cause sharp, shooting pain along the affected tissue. Muscular spasms of the muscles in thighs, back of thighs and calf can cause severe shooting leg pain. Muscle cramps caused due to electrolyte imbalance, too can lead to shooting, unbearable stiffening pain in the legs.

Any condition affecting the muscles around the spine, buttocks and legs can be a cause of pain. Piriformis syndrome, is a condition that affects the piriformis muscle in the buttocks and cause spasms. This can cause sharp, shooting pain in buttocks, extending to the legs, as it runs along the course of sciatic nerve. Pain is especially felt when turning the legs and walking. Muscle spasm or swelling may occur in response to an injury and cause buttock and leg pain with numbness and tingling behind the thighs or calf.

Shooting Pain in Legs Caused due to Vascular Disorders

When blood flow to any part of the leg gets affected, it can cause shooting pain in legs. A condition called atherosclerosis, in which the blood vessels get narrowed and affect the amount of blood flowing through it, too can cause shooting leg pain. It is also called as claudication, intermittent claudication or peripheral artery disease. Pain due to vascular causes is usually sharp, shooting and cramp like, which may be very severe at times.

Shooting Pain in Legs Caused due to Infections

Certain infections like herpes zoster can sometimes affect the nerve course and cause shooting leg pain. Other infections like tuberculosis of the spine can cause nerve root compression, which can cause pain along the nerve course in the leg.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Shooting Pain in Legs

As the causes of shooting pain in legs are many, appropriate investigations are done to reach a final diagnosis. Treatment approach depends on the diagnosis. Medications to relieve pain, swelling, infection etc. are given. Physical therapy can be helpful in most, while surgery may be advised in few cases.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 28, 2023

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