Updated: Jan 24
Referred Leg Pain? Sciatica? Shooting/Burning Pain? Pins & Needles, Tingling, Numbness?
Referred leg pain is a type of pain that originates in one area of the body but is felt in the leg. The most common causes of referred leg pain are related to issues in the lower back, hips, or pelvis.
One of the most commonly used term for referred leg pain is a condition called 'sciatica'. This is thought to occur when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the leg, becomes compressed or irritated. The symptoms of sciatica are discrete and include sharp-shooting or burning pain, numbness, and tingling in the leg. Although many other conditions mimic sciatica and may refer pain down the leg, not all 'sciatica' is sciatica.
The most common cause of this shooting/burning pain is a herniated disc in the lower back. This occurs when the soft tissue of a spinal disc deforms and creates pressure or irritation to a neighbouring nerve. This can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the leg.
Hip problems such as osteoarthritis, bursitis, or a hip labral tear can also cause referred leg pain. These conditions can cause pain in the hip and thigh, and sometimes down to the knee.
Pelvic conditions such as a pelvic injury or inflammation in the pelvic area can also cause referred leg pain. These conditions can cause pain in the lower abdomen or groin, which can radiate down to the leg.
In some cases, referred leg pain can also be caused by nerve disorders such as peripheral neuropathy or a condition called meralgia paresthetica, which is caused by compressed nerves in the thigh.
In summary, the most common causes of referred leg pain are related to issues in the lower back, hips, or pelvis such as sciatica, herniated disc, hip problems, pelvic conditions, and nerve disorders. These can be difficult to differentiate between at times, although a thorough assessment of signs and symptoms followed by a physical examination by a physiotherapist or your GP can help to differentiate between these.
NOTE. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience persisting and severe shooting leg pain as it can be caused by a serious underlying condition. A doctor or physiotherapist can help diagnose the cause of your leg pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.