The common causes of leg pain and numbness include arthritis and complications from spinal diseases. Short-term, usually reversible leg pain comes from injuries to the leg, like torn muscles, and from brief gout attacks. Common spinal causes of leg pain and numbness are sciatica, resulting from a slipped disc in the lower spinal column, and spinal lumbar stenosis. Another source of leg pain is vascular disease, including chronic varicose veins or serious conditions like thrombosis that threaten vital organs along with the legs.
Common leg injuries like hairline fractures and torn muscles account for sudden leg pain, especially in otherwise healthy patients. Additionally, chronic rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and the complications of diabetes can trigger regular or periodic symptoms. Acute gout triggers pain at knee or ankle joints, which can be crippling during attacks when uric acid crystals accumulate in the joint. Movement causes severe leg pain as a result. Some nerve and soft tissue pain in the leg results from diabetic neuropathies, the gradual destruction of peripheral nerves that accompanies unchecked advanced diabetes.
A frequent cause of leg pain and numbness is spinal stenosis, increased pressure on the spinal cord due to narrowing of the spinal canal. While stenosis can occur anywhere on the spine, lumbar stenosis affects the nerves within the legs. Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis report pain, weakness, or numbness in the buttocks and legs. Often, the pain and numbness are most acute when they are sitting for long periods of time, and partially diminish with walking and a change of position.
Also called lumbar disc disease, sciatica causes leg pain and numbness or tingling that originates in the low back and radiates down the back of the leg. It comes from a radiculopathy, a disc that has slipped from its normal position in the vertebral column, pressuring the root of the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Sciatica is commonly felt on only one side of the body, with pain presenting in only one leg. While it can occur in any age group, sciatica is more frequent in middle age.
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a clot in a large vein in the thigh or lower leg that blocks blood flow and causes pain and swelling. This kind of leg pain is dangerous because there is risk of a clot breaking off and drifting into the bloodstream, where it can block blood vessels in the brain or heart. DVTs usually cause tenderness and redness in the affected leg, in addition to visible distension of the veins. Varicose veins, less serious but still painful, are a common source of leg pain and raise the risk of developing DVT.