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November 2, 2016
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist   

Leg pain is a difficult thing. So many different types of pain,
so many different causes. But leg pain is too important to
be ignored – particularly if you suffer from shooting pains
in your legs.

Leg pain can take a number of forms and one of the most
distressing is shooting pain. It can feel like a sharp,
stinging, or stabbing pain in one or both legs. Shooting
pains in your legs can make it difficult to walk, sleep, and
move around. If you experience shooting pains in the legs,
what should you do? Are there any tried-and-tested
remedies for shooting leg pain?

What is Shooting Leg Pain?

Leg pain is defined to occur anywhere between the ankle
and the groin, not including the hips or the feet. Pain may
be experienced in different forms but a shooting pain is
described as a sharp pain that may come and go,
alternating in severity. The shooting pain may be acute
(short term) pain or chronic (long term) pain.

You experience pain thanks to nerves, which deliver
messages to the brain when triggered by different stimuli
such as pressure, high or low temperature, or chemicals.
The nerves in your legs may be triggered by anything from
a trauma to an illness.

What Causes Shooting Leg Pain?

Sometimes the cause of shooting pains in the legs is
obvious – you injured your leg during a soccer game, or
you fell down the stairs, for example. Trauma injuries can
cause a shooting pain in the leg, particularly when you try
to put weight on the affected leg.

But the cause of shooting leg pain may be less obvious. It
may be caused by neurological issues. For example,
neuropathy and trapped nerves cause intense pain in the

Shooting pains in the legs may also be caused by
musculoskeletal issues like cramps, stress fractures, shin
splints, tendon damage or ligament sprains, or other stress

Vascular causes (issues with the blood vessels) can cause
shooting pains in the legs, for example
or deep vein thrombosis (blood clot).

If you experience intense or worrying pain in your legs, it
is best to visit a medical professional to rule out serious

We looked at recent scientific evidence to see the main
causes of shooting pain in the leg, and what you can do
about it.

A Shooting Pain in the Leg Can Be a Sign of Nerve

A common cause of shooting pain in the leg is a damaged
nerve or a herniated disc in the spine. This problem is
caused by a compressed or irritated nerve as it comes out
of the spine.

One major cause of shooting pain in the legs is
which is irritation to the sciatic nerve which travels down
the back of each thigh.

The most common reason for sciatica is a strain of the
muscles in the area, which puts pressure on the nerve, or
degenerated discs in the spine. In a lot of cases sciatica
resolves itself on its own and doesn’t need treatment.

You can prevent attacks of sciatica by taking care when
lifting, practicing good posture, avoiding sitting and
standing for long periods, and using good lower back
support when sitting and sleeping.

In a 1997 study from East Finchley Clinic, London, England,
acupuncture was put forward as a promising treatment for
sciatica although there is not enough evidence to show that
it can definitely help treat shooting pains in the legs.

Shooting Leg Pain Caused By Running

According to the National Institutes of Health, sports can
not only injure the legs through trauma but also through a
less immediate method, for example shin splints through
excessive exercise.

Long distance running, in particular, can be particularly
risky for shooting pain in the legs.

A 2012 study from Pennsylvania State University College of
Medicine shows that around half of runners who run more
than three kilometers per run and train steadily will suffer a
running-related leg injury, which may involve shooting pain
in the legs.

A 2007 study from Saga Nutraceuticals Research Institute,
Japan discovered that a certain type of amino acids, BCAAs,
have shown promise for reducing pain and muscle damage
after long-distance running.

Intermittent Claudication Causes a Shooting Pain in the

Intermittent claudication describes the pain felt in the leg
as a result of poor circulation, or Peripheral Arterial Disease
(PAD). This happens when the blood supply is restricted to
the leg muscles due to artery damage. The pain can be a
cramping or a shooting pain that is normally eased by rest.

In a 2015 study from Hull Royal Infirmary in the UK,
exercise therapies have been shown to be effective for leg
pain due to intermittent claudication.

Ginkgo may also be effective, according to a 1998 study
from GmbH & Co., Karlsruhe which enrolled 111 patients
for 24 weeks. It significantly increased pain-free walking
distance – by around 40 percent.

Treat Shooting Pain Due to Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are passing incidents of pain when the muscle
at the back of the calf spasms and sends pain shooting
down the leg.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the
UK says around one third of people over the age of 60
suffer from leg cramps, particularly at night.

Leg cramps can usually be treated by stretching and
straightening the leg – you usually need help to straighten
the leg and pull it towards you, or massage the calf.

Shooting Leg Pain Can Be Caused By Diabetic

Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes.
High blood sugar levels can damage nerves, causing pain in
the legs or
numbness and loss of sensation.

Acetyl-L-carnitine is a promising treatment for diabetic
peripheral neuropathy, according to a 2004 study from
Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit.

In this study, two trials evaluated the success of ALC at
500 mg or 1000 mg per day. The supplement, particularly
at the higher dose, decreased pain levels.

Deep Vein Thrombosis and Shooting Leg Pains

deep vein thrombosis is a clot in the deep veins of the leg
and it typically results in a one-sided painful leg that can be
hot and swollen. It is important to prevent DVT in order to
avoid this shooting leg pain.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins, OPCs, which are derived
from pine bark and grape seed, may help reduce the risk of
blood clots on long-haul flights.

The 2004 study from L'Aquila University, Italy looked at
198 people who were either given OPCs or placebo before
a long flight. The study showed that the use of OPCs
significantly reduced the risk of blood clots.

Treat Shooting Leg Pains Due to Tendonitis

Inflammation in the tendon of the leg or ankle is called
tendonitis, and it can result in pain, swelling, redness, and
tenderness. Tendonitis is most common in the elbow, knee,
hip, shoulder, and lower calf. It can occur as a result of
overuse of the joint.

Treatment usually involves resting the affected area and
allowing the tendon to heal, as well as anti-inflammatory

Deep transverse friction massage was shown to be
effective in treating tendonitis in a 2002 study from the
University of Ottawa in Canada, but not enough evidence
exists to support these findings.

But beware of using massage when you do not the reason
for your shooting leg pain.

Leg pain caused by deep vein thrombosis should never be
treated with massage.

Massaging a blood clot can dislodge the clot, cause it to
travel to your brain or heart where it can cause a stroke or
heart attack.

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