Burning in the leg

Definition - what is a burning sensation in the leg?

A burning sensation in the leg is often equated with a burning pain. Depending on the cause, this can be more likely on the foot and lower leg or in the area of ​​the thigh up to the buttocks. It is not uncommon for burning pain, in particular, to radiate to other parts of the body, so that the precise pain point often cannot be precisely identified by those affected. Instead of a single point on the thigh, a burning sensation can often be felt throughout the thigh and buttocks.

A burning sensation is often caused by damaged nerve fibers, and overloaded muscles can also cause a burning sensation. The burning sensation in the leg can also be understood as a superficial sensation of the skin, such as can arise, for example, from local allergic reactions.


There are many reasons for a burning sensation in the leg. Damage to the nerves is often the reason for the unpleasant sensation. The sciatic nerve is most frequently affected, and if damaged, it causes burning pain especially on the back of the thigh, but also on the calf to the foot.

A burning sensation in the leg can also be triggered by the muscles. During acute sporting exertion, for example, overexertion of the muscles can lead to a burning sensation. The burning sensation in the form of sore muscles can be present days after the exercise.

Read more on the topic: Sore muscles - what works best?

If the burning sensation in the leg is due to the accumulation of fluid in the tissue, a thrombosis can be the cause, but varicose veins can also be considered.

Read more on the topic: Detect thrombosis


Thrombosis is a disease that occurs due to the formation of blood clots in the blood vessel. The deep veins in the legs are most commonly affected by the thrombosis. As a rule, a change in the flow conditions in the vessel is the cause of the formation of the blood clot. This creates eddies in the blood flow, in some places the blood flows particularly slowly so that it can clot in the vessel. More blood cells attach themselves to this small clot, so that the clot gets bigger and bigger and eventually blocks the entire vessel. Then one speaks of a thrombosis.

As a result of the thrombosis, fluid builds up in the blood vessel, which at some point enters the surrounding tissue through the vessel walls and can cause a burning sensation there. Most often, the burning sensation occurs on the lower leg. In addition, the affected leg is often swollen, and it is not uncommon for it to be overheated and reddened.

Read more on the topic: Pain in a thrombosis and causes of a thrombosis

A thrombosis is an acute emergency. On the one hand, the blood supply to the affected leg is no longer guaranteed, so that tissue damage can occur due to a lack of nutrients. On the other hand, the clot can detach itself from the leg vein and be transported to the lungs, where, depending on its size, it can cause a pulmonary embolism. In the worst case, this can lead to death within a few minutes due to a severe lack of oxygen.

Treatment for thrombosis consists of thinning the blood to dissolve the clot, and the clot can be removed from the vein using a catheter (a small wire that is pushed into a blood vessel).

Read more on the topic: Thrombosis prophylaxis

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are superficial leg veins, the vessel walls of which have been weakened due to excessive stress. In the legs, the blood has to be fed back to the heart through the veins against gravity. The veins have small valves that ensure that the blood transported upwards does not follow gravity again and flows back into the feet. In the long run these flaps can leak (insufficient) so that they no longer close properly.

The blood then builds up in the veins, they become plump and begin to snake under the skin. Due to the build-up of blood, many nutrients can no longer be removed; they accumulate in the blood vessel and tissue and can lead to burning pain in the affected leg.

Read more on the topic: Remove varicose veins - when do you have to resort to surgery?

after a herniated disc of the lumbar spine

In a herniated disc, the disc, which is usually between two vertebral bones, is pushed out of its position so that it presses on the spinal cord, for example. This disrupts the conduction function of the spinal cord or the nerves emanating from there, so that information about touch, pressure, temperature, etc. can no longer be adequately conveyed to the brain. The brain interprets these sensory qualities from the leg as an unpleasant tingling or burning sensation.

Read more on the topic: Symptoms of a herniated disc lumbar spine

Meralgia paraesthetica

In Meralgia paraesthetica (also Bernhardt-Roth syndrome or Inguinal tunnel syndrome) is a condition in which a femoral nerve becomes trapped in the inguinal canal. This nerve (Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) is responsible for the transmission of sensations (sensitivity) such as pressure, temperature and touch. In its course, the nerve passes through the inguinal ligament, where it can be narrowed very quickly.

Common causes of this are weight gain, pregnancy or extensive strength training in the groin area (thighs and abdominal muscles). The meralgia paraesthetica manifests itself mainly as a burning sensation on the front outer thigh. Electrifying or pinprick pain can also occur.

Read more on the topic: Overtraining

Vitamin deficiency

Vitamins are chemical compounds that our body needs in small doses for various functions. However, the body cannot produce these vitamins itself or only in very small and therefore insufficient quantities.A vitamin deficiency can therefore quickly develop with an unbalanced diet.

Vitamins E and D are particularly associated with nerve dysfunction. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and occurs mainly in vegetable fats. Vitamin D is produced by the body itself from precursors, but this requires the intake of precursors, for example from fish, and the body also needs it sunlight to make the vitamin D. A deficiency of these two vitamins in particular leads to a loss of function of nerve fibers. As a result, the nerves transmit false signals to the brain, which can result in a burning sensation in the leg even without the corresponding stimulus.

Read more on the topic:

  • Vitamins in Pregnancy
  • Vitamin B12
  • Burning feet

Burning at rest

A burning sensation in the leg at rest usually indicates greater damage to the vessels or fundamental damage to the nerves. In order to be able to trigger burning pain, the blood vessels must be very tight, since the nutrient supply is not only insufficient for strained muscles, but the tissue is chronically undersupplied. When there is a burning sensation caused by nerve damage, the symptoms occur more often at rest, as the nerve can convey misinformation to the brain even without a stimulus.

Burning in the leg with rheumatism

Rheumatism is a collective term for many diseases that are based on an autoimmune disease. The immune system is directed against the body's own cells, so that inflammation occurs again and again. In rheumatism, the musculoskeletal system (especially the joints) is particularly affected.

Read more on the topic: How do you recognize rheumatism? and vasculitis - when blood vessels become inflamed

In the long run, rheumatism destroys the joint surfaces. If the rheumatic disease causes the first joint damage, this can become noticeable as burning pain. Both the large joints (hip joint, knee joint, ankle joint) and the small joints (tarsal bones, joints between the individual toe bones) can be found on the leg.

Read more on the topic: Polymyalgia rheumatica

accompanying symptoms

The burning sensation in the leg is usually due to a dysfunction of the nerves. If only sensitive nerve fibers are affected, which convey information about touch, etc. to the brain, other sensory disorders can occur in addition to the burning sensation in the leg. These sensory disturbances are often associated with pain, for example they can be electrifying or shooting. Numbness can also occur along with the burning sensation in the leg. Touching the body is no longer perceived and the leg feels numb.

So-called motor nerves can also be affected by the nerve damage; these transmit information from the brain to the muscles and are therefore responsible for their mobility. Damage to the nerves can lead to a loss of strength or even paralysis.

Read more on the topic: Paralysis in the leg

If the burning sensation in the leg is due to a circulatory disorder, the symptoms are usually slightly different. Typically, the affected area has poor blood circulation, so the skin is often pale and the affected part of the body feels rather cold. In addition, small injuries to the skin occur more frequently, as they can no longer protect themselves well due to the lack of nutrients. The resulting wounds also heal more slowly.

Read more on the topic: Wound healing disorder


A burning sensation in the leg is not a diagnosis, but a symptom. This can be a sign of various diseases. The diagnosis consists initially of an anamnesis, during which the doctor can inquire about other accompanying symptoms. Risk factors for nerve damage or circulatory disorders as well as a tendency to thrombosis can also be asked about in the anamnesis.

This is followed by a physical examination with a test of sensitivity (sensation) and motor skills. In order to examine the nerve fibers additionally, the nerve conduction speed can be tested. The blood flow to the vessels in the leg is usually examined using ultrasound.

Treatment / therapy

The therapy of burning in the leg depends on the underlying disease. If it is more about pain, symptomatic therapy with painkillers can be useful.

In addition, the cause should be treated. In the case of a burning sensation caused by overexertion of the musculoskeletal system, the best therapy is usually physical rest. The tissue recovers within a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. Symptomatic pain therapy is sufficient.

Vascular damage, on the other hand, requires extensive therapy. Risk factors such as inactivity, obesity, alcohol and nicotine abuse should be treated. There are also drugs that promote blood circulation and prevent the formation of calcium deposits and blood clots in the blood vessels. If this is not enough, the vascular blockage can usually be treated with a minimally invasive procedure using a catheter.

In the case of nerve damage, the therapy is very complex; it consists of a combination of exercise therapy, medication, and possibly an operation. Since nerve fibers recover very slowly and poorly, a long therapy duration must be expected here.


The duration of the discomfort with a burning sensation in the leg varies greatly depending on the cause of the symptom. Nerve conduction disorders in particular tend to be protracted illnesses. In the case of a herniated disc, for example, extensive physiotherapy and back training are required, and if necessary (if the intervertebral disc constricts the spinal cord too much and causes too many discomfort) an operation must be performed. Even after that, the symptoms may still be present, but for many people they will go away after a few weeks.

Vascular damage is also more of a chronic problem, so that here, too, no improvement is to be expected without therapy. With therapy, the symptoms can regress within a few weeks to months.

In acute events, a shorter duration of the symptoms can be assumed.