What Causes Burning Legs? It May Be Vein Disease.

woman experiencing symptoms of burning legs

Burning pain or a burning sensation in the legs is not always easy to describe. Some people may feel numbness, tingling (paresthesia), or a wave of heat in one or both legs. The burning sensation may be in the feet, the thigh, or calf. 

Take note of when you feel the burning sensation. Is it after a long run? Did you spend a long day out in the sun? 

Keeping track of your symptoms and potential triggers can help you pinpoint the cause or help your doctor determine whether an underlying medical condition is a culprit.

doctor examining burning legs symptoms

What Can Cause Burning Legs

The skin and muscles, along with the nerves in our legs, can cause a sensation of burning or pain for several reasons. Read on below to learn about the potential causes.

Exercise 

When we exercise, our body needs more energy than it requires when we are at rest. To compensate for the increased need for oxygen, our muscles take over to produce extra energy. When this happens, lactic acid can build up in our muscles, causing pain or burning in the muscles.

You may have experienced this type of soreness in the days following a run or vigorous workout.

While uncomfortable, this does not always indicate that there is an injury and will typically lessen over time.

Injury

Injury is usually the most common source of leg pain. Particularly, if muscles have been strained or overstretched. You may notice swelling or bruising.

Following the RICE method is an excellent method to follow when treating muscle strain or pain.

What is the RICE method?

  • Rest: Avoid exercise or bearing weight on the injured leg.
  • Ice: Use a cold pack wrapped in a cloth to minimize swelling.
  • Compression: Use a bandage to compress the injured leg.
  • Elevation: Elevate the leg about your heart to reduce swelling and improve circulation.

Sun Burn

Overexposure to the sun without sunscreen can result in a sunburn, which causes the skin to become inflamed.

You will often notice your skin is hot or warm to the touch and may cause a burning sensation. 

To reduce your symptoms, it’s essential to cool the skin down with a cold pack, cool shower, or bath. If needed, over-the-counter pain relievers can also help reduce inflammation.

Are There Home Remedies to Treat Burning Legs?

If you are experiencing pain from a minor injury, exercise, or sun exposure, several remedies can help ease your symptoms at home.

Muscle Strain

  • Take some time to rest and apply ice and elevate the injured leg.

Burning Caused by Exercise

  • Stretching and allowing your muscles to cool down after exercise should help minimize pain and burning.

Sunburn Remedies

  • Applying a cold pack to cool down the skin and keeping the skin moisturized will promote healing.

Underlying Medical Condition That May Cause Burning Legs

If you suspect that the burning in your legs is not the result of exercise, injury, or sun exposure, you may need to consult with a doctor to determine the cause and whether an underlying medical condition is causing the symptoms.

Venous Reflux

Venous reflux, also known as venous insufficiency, occurs when the leg veins are not correctly moving blood back to the heart. Often, the walls or the valves of the veins are damaged or weakened, allowing blood to flow backward and pool in the lower leg.

Common Symptoms of Venous Reflux:

  • Hot or burning sensation
  • Discoloration or change in skin pigmentation
  • Itching

How to Treat Venous Reflux

woman with poor blood circulation wearing compression socks

There are several ways to treat venous reflux. If diagnosed early, many treatment options are simple lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Compression Therapy: The use of compression stockings is an excellent way to help increase blood circulation in the legs. The socks or stockings gradually apply pressure to the lower limbs, helping to move blood upwards and prevent stagnation.
  • Increase Exercise: Exercise helps to boost blood circulation throughout your entire body and strengthens your cardiovascular system.

In some cases, if your doctor believes you are at risk for blood clots, a blood thinner may be recommended. Also, if venous reflux has progressed, there are several procedures available to stop the condition from worsening:

  • Sclerotherapy: A solution will be directed directly into the diseased vein, causing it to permanently close.
  • Endovenous Thermal Ablation: Radio-frequency or laser energy is used to close the unhealthy vein.
  • Ligation or Vein Stripping: Vein stripping is a surgical procedure and involves your doctor cutting and permanently typing off the problem vein.

Meralgia Paresthetica

doctor examining burning legs symptoms

Meralgia paresthetica, also known as Bernhardt-Roth Syndrome, occurs when the nerve that provides sensation to your skin is compressed. 

The compression causes burning and searing pain on the surface of your outer thigh. Some people also experience sensations of tingling or numbness.

How To Treat Meralgia Paresthetica

The typical recovery timeline for meralgia pareshetica is 4 to 6 weeks. If your symptoms are mild, the following treatments may be suggested:

  • Use of over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Maintain a healthy weight and diet.
  • Choose to wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Consult with a physical therapist

If you are experiencing severe pain that has persisted beyond 8 weeks, your doctor may opt for the following treatment options:

  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Antiseizure medications

Rarely, and only in very severe cases of meralgia parasthetica, surgery may be recommended to decompress the nerve.

Peripheral Neuropathy

patient with neuropathy in the legs

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is a loss of function in the nerves responsible for relaying signals from the body to the brain and spinal cord.

Several conditions can cause peripheral neuropathy:

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • Diabetic neuropathy 
  • Alcohol use disorder

How to Treat Peripheral Neuropathy

Similar to meralgia paresthetica, treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms.

Some common medications and therapies include:

  • Use of over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Antiseizure medications, such as gabapentin
  • Lidocaine patches
  • Topical treatments, such as capsaicin cream, which is a natural, homeopathic option.

Should you be experiencing severe symptoms related to peripheral neuropathy, your doctor may prescribe the following treatments:

  • Physical therapy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Plasma exchange

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS causes several symptoms, including, burning, tingling, and numbness in the legs. This condition is most often caused by lesions in the brain or spinal cord, which result in faulty nerve signaling.

How to Treat MS

Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS, but several treatments are available to help reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. Overall, treatment aims to slow the progression of the disease and promote recovery after MS flare-ups.

There are several medications used to treat MS. Speak with your doctor to learn about what medications may be best for you and your symptoms.

Is Burning In My Legs Ever An Emergency?

If you ever experience burning in the legs with the following symptoms, contact 911 right away:

  • Headache
  • Numbness or weakness along one side of your body
  • A change in thinking or level of consciousness

These symptoms may mean you are experiencing a stroke. Contact a medical professional right away.

The Bottom Line

Burning legs is most commonly caused by injury or damage to the skin or muscles in the leg, often from too much sun or exercise. The proper home care remedies should typically treat the symptoms with some rest and downtime for healing.

If you have unidentified burning in the legs, however, it is essential to consult with a physician to rule out any underlying health condition that may be causing your discomfort and seek medical advice.

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Veinly uses medical reviewed journals, medical research, and has strict editorial review guidelines by medical professionals. You can read more about  our editorial policy and how our writers produce content for Veinly.

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