phone (480) 993-1300   -   FAX: (480) 212-1027 

Nerve pain, or neuralgia, can be scary, confusing, and uncomfortable. From pins-and-needles and tingling to fiery electrical shock sensations; from a dull ache to searing shooting pain, nerve pain in the lower legs can come in all varieties. And, while there are a number of things that might cause nerve pain in your lower legs, there are a few that are most common, and in many cases treatable, culprits. 

What Causes Nerve Pain in the Legs? 

1. Sciatica 

One of the best known causes of nerve pain in the lower leg is sciatica. Inflammation or injury to the sciatic nerve can cause pain in the lower back and leg. 

The Cleveland Clinic explains, “True injury to the sciatic nerve “sciatica” is actually rare, but the term “sciatica” is commonly used to describe any pain that originates in the lower back and radiates down the leg. What this pain shares in common is an injury to a nerve — an irritation, inflammation, pinching or compression of a nerve in your lower back.” 

In other words, inflammation or a pinched nerve in your lower back may be causing your leg pain. Some of the symptoms of sciatica include (according to The Cleveland Clinic) “mild to severe pain anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve – that is, anywhere from the lower back, through the hips, buttocks and/or down your legs. It can also cause muscle weakness in your leg and foot, numbness in your leg, and an unpleasant tingling pins-and-needles sensation in your leg, foot and toes.” 

Generally speaking, sciatica only affects one leg at a time. Sciatic nerve pain in the lower back and legs will often go away on its own, or with some at-home treatments like stretching, ice, and heat. Other times, a doctor’s sciatica diagnosis and intervention is called for. 

2. Spinal Stenosis 

Another common medical condition that can cause nerve pain in the lower legs is lumbar spinal stenosis. Johns Hopkins describes lumbar spinal stenosis as “a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower part of your back. Stenosis, which means narrowing, can cause pressure on your spinal cord or the nerves that go from your spinal cord to your muscles.” 

This pressure causes nerve compression, which in turn can lead to numbness, weakness, cramping, or tingling in the legs. 

Johns Hopkins explains that lumbar spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by “osteoarthritis, the gradual wear and tear that happens to your joints over time. Spinal stenosis is common because osteoarthritis begins to cause changes in most people’s spines by age 50. That’s why most people who develop symptoms of spinal stenosis are 50 or older.” 

Like sciatica pain, spinal stenosis, and the nerve pain it can cause in the lower leg, can be relieved. Generally, relief will happen according to medical advice, and may involve physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines, and (as a last resort) surgery

3. Neuropathies 

Some nerve pain in the lower leg is caused by nerve damage or dysfunction. The technical term for this type of damage is “neuropathy.” Generally, nerve pain is named for the nerve that’s affected, or for the part of the body best associated with the nerve. There are three types of neuropathy that are most likely to cause nerve pain in the lower leg. 

Peripheral Neuropathy 

Peripheral neuropathy is a catch-all term for nerve damage anywhere in the body except the brain. The Mayo Clinic says, “Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes. People with peripheral neuropathy generally describe the pain as stabbing, burning or tingling.“ 

This type of nerve pain in your legs, the Mayo Clinic says, often presents as a “gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet” that spreads up your legs. Peripheral neuropathy can also cause a burning nerve pain in the calf.  

Peroneal Neuropathy 

Another well-documented type of neuropathy, and one that specifically causes nerve pain in the lower leg, is caused by damage to the Peroneal nerve in the knee. Johns Hopkins says that “injuries to the peroneal nerve can cause numbness, tingling, pain, weakness and a gait problem called foot drop. 

Regardless of the type of neuropathy, treatment will be handled best under medical care and may include medication, physical therapy, and possibly surgery. 

4. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome 

Damage to your tibial nerve can cause Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. The Cleveland Clinic explains that “your tibial nerve runs through your tarsal tunnel, a passage of bones and ligaments in your ankle. TTS symptoms may include pain, burning or tingling in the bottom of your feet and toes. Often, nonsurgical treatment decreases symptoms.”  

5. Meralgia Paresthetica 

Tingling, numbness, and burning pain that you experience in the outer side of the thigh could be due to Meralgia paresthetica, a disorder that occurs “when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is compressed or squeezed as it exits the pelvis”, according to the NIH.  

Otherwise known as Bernhardt-Roth syndrome, Meralgia paresthetica is not usually life-threatening or particularly dangerous, but it can be quite painful and irksome. It usually affects middle-aged people and is often alleviated with methods of pain management that are often used for other types of nerve pain, such as physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and administration of medication. 

Learn More 

If you are experiencing nerve pain in your calves or lower legs, your best bet is going to be contacting and consulting with an expert today who can help you understand and plan treatment for your pain. We can help you find treatment options and relief today