Burning leg pain can refer to many different types of sensations in the legs. A burning feeling, for example, may be the result of paresthesia — or pins and needles — or it may be the result of overuse of the muscles. The pain will feel different in either case, though both sensations may fall under the label or description of burning leg pain. Perhaps one of the most common causes of a burning sensation in the legs is overuse of the muscles, but sciatica may also be the cause of the sensation, as can neurological issues resulting from nerve damage.
Athletes often complain of burning leg pain after intense physical activity. This pain may be the result of muscle overuse. The muscles begin to tense up as they tire, which can lead to a burning or tightening sensation in the legs. The sensation may further be exacerbated by build-up of lactic acid in the legs. Lactic acid is a by-product of spent glycogen, which is the body's preferred fuel source during intense physical activity. As lactic acid builds up, a feeling of stiffness, soreness, or burning in the legs is often felt. Athletes can work to avoid this feeling by building up a lactic acid threshold, which is essentially the amount of time an athlete can spend during physical activity before lactic acid build-up becomes debilitating.
Sciatica can cause burning leg pain, a pins-and-needles feeling, numbness, or shooting pains throughout each leg. As the sciatic nerve is compressed — often due to tight muscles in the lower back and hips, or due to a bulging or herniated disc in the spine — the leg, hip, and buttocks may sense the pain since the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back through the buttocks and hips and all the way down the back of the leg. The pain from sciatica can be felt all the way down to the bottom of the calf, regardless of where the nerve is actually being compressed. Stretching and exercise usually relieves sciatic pain, though in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue.
If a nerve becomes severely damaged, neurological issues may develop. This may manifest itself as weakness in the legs, a lack of coordination or strength, or intense pain. The pain can be burning leg pain or sharp leg pain, or even dull aches. Neurological issues due to nerve damage is considered a serious condition and should be treated by a doctor immediately.