Burning Legs: Causes, Home Remedies, and Treatments

Medically Reviewed By Megan Soliman, MD

Burning legs can result from a number of causes, including circulation problems or damage to nerves in the legs. You may experience a burning sensation in one or both legs, and other symptoms may accompany it. The duration and course of burning legs can vary widely depending on the underlying condition. Burning legs due to an injury can often have a sudden onset, while burning legs resulting from a medical condition may develop slowly over time.

Read on to learn more about the causes of burning legs. This guide also includes information about home remedies, medical treatments, and when to contact a doctor.

What causes burning legs?

There is a closeup of a person wearing red leggings.
Ivona Zivulj/Stocksy United

Burning legs can occur as a result of damage to the skin, or it can occur as a result of peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves. Around 30 million people in the United States are experiencing some type of peripheral neuropathy.

Physical causes of burning legs include:

  • sunburn
  • exposure to the cold, which can cause chilblains
  • exposure to chemicals or toxins
  • exercise, which can induce vasculitis

Conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy or burning legs include:

Some medications can also include peripheral neuropathy, which can lead to burning legs. These medications can include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

Contact your doctor if you have concerns about any medication you are taking.

Learn more about peripheral neuropathy here.

What causes a burning sensation in the legs when lying down?

Venous insufficiency can cause a burning sensation in your legs when you are lying down. This condition affects the way your blood flows, making it more difficult for blood to reach your heart, as it can often pool in your legs.

How do you treat burning legs?

Treatment for burning legs will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, you may be able to treat the symptom with home remedies. However, medical treatment may be necessary.

Your doctor will be able to advise on the best type of treatment for you.

Home remedies

Home remedies for treating burning legs can include:

  • wearing loose clothing to alleviate pressure on nerves
  • using non-perfumed or fragrance-free moisturizers to prevent skin from becoming dry
  • avoiding activities that cause the sensation, such as certain exercises
  • wearing compression stockings
  • elevating your legs for temporary relief
  • applying soothing lotions, such as chamomile
  • eating a balanced diet and maintaining a moderate weight, which can help with conditions such as PAD
  • massaging your legs
  • applying a hot compress to increase blood flow
  • trying relaxing exercises, such as yoga

Medical treatments

Medical treatments for a burning sensation in the legs can include:

  • corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for inflammation
  • topical medications, such as local anesthetics and analgesics, which are available in a variety of:
    • creams
    • gels
    • lotions
    • ointments
  • antibiotics to treat any infections, such as cellulitis
  • surgery to release the trapped nerve causing the burning sensation
  • transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation therapy

Are there any other symptoms related to burning legs?

You may have other symptoms alongside burning legs, depending on the cause.

Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • feeling like you are wearing a sock
  • pain that is:
    • sharp
    • shooting
    • electric-like
    • jabbing
  • sensitivity to the touch
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle cramps
  • twitching
  • unusual blood pressure or pulse

Other symptoms of meralgia paresthetica typically affect just one side of the body and can include:

  • pain on the outer thigh
  • pain on the outer side of the knee
  • tingling or numbness
  • occasional aches in the groin area
  • pain across the buttocks

Learn more about the causes of burning sensations in your thighs.

Contact your doctor if you have a burning sensation in your legs. You may have other symptoms not listed here, and mentioning any symptoms you have can help your doctor diagnose the underlying cause of your burning legs.

How is the cause of burning legs diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about the burning sensation you are experiencing as well as any other symptoms you have. The examinations or tests they will carry out can depend on related symptoms or any conditions they suspect but can include:

  • X-ray: An X-ray can be useful for seeing if there are any bone irregularities that may be pressing on the nerves in your legs.
  • Imaging: Imaging such as MRI scans can help detect any growths or tumors that may be affecting your nerves.
  • Nerve conduction study: Nerve conduction studies measure the electrical activity in your nerves.
  • Skin biopsy: Skin biopsies can help determine the cause of burning legs if symptoms affect the skin, such as in exercise-induced vasculitis.
  • Quantitative sensory testing: This tests how sensitive your legs are to changes in temperature, touch, and pressure, which can help assess nerve damage.
  • Autonomic testing: Autonomic testing monitors your blood pressure, blood flow, and rate of sweating. It does this with a combination of tilt table tests, deep breathing tests, and the Valsalva maneuver, which involves blowing into a tube.

Questions your doctor might ask

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed healthcare practitioner will ask you several questions related to your burning legs, including:

  • How long have you felt the burning sensation in your legs?
  • Where on the leg do you feel the burning sensation?
  • Does the burning occur in one leg or both legs?
  • Have you felt this burning sensation before?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the risk factors for burning legs?

There are various environmental risk factors for burning legs, such as spending too much time in the sun or often being in cold conditions.

If you have to spend outdoors, make sure to wear sunscreen on your legs to reduce the risk of sunburn. Wearing warm clothing if you work outdoors or in cold environments can help prevent burning sensations as a result of exposure to cold.

Conditions that increase your risk of burning legs as a result of peripheral neuropathy include:

Other risk factors for burning legs and related health conditions include:

  • repetitive stress
  • excessive alcohol intake
  • vitamin B1 and B12 deficiencies
  • exposure to heavy metals, such as:
    • lead
    • mercury
    • arsenic

Are there any complications of burning legs?

If you do not receive treatment for the cause of burning legs, it may lead to complications.

For example, complications of peripheral neuropathy include:

Receiving treatment as early as possible for any nerve conditions that may be causing burning legs will help reduce the risk of complications. Contact your doctor if you have concerns about burning legs and related conditions.

Summary

Burning legs can occur when nerves become damaged or as a result of exposure to temperatures or toxins. The burning sensation may happen suddenly or gradually over time, and it may affect one or both legs.

Medical causes of burning legs include peripheral neuropathy, meralgia paresthetica, and other conditions that affect the nerves or blood flow. There are numerous tests that can help determine the underlying cause of the burning sensation.

Contact your doctor if you have concerns about burning legs. They will be able to advise on the best course of treatment for you, which can include treating the underlying condition, applying soothing ointments, and taking medication for pain relief.

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Medical Reviewer: Megan Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 May 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.