What Are the Most Common Causes of Sharp Leg Pain?

Dan Cavallari

A variety of conditions can lead to sharp leg pain, and while most of these conditions are fairly minor, some can be serious conditions that will require medical attention. Bone fractures, for example, can lead to sharp leg pain that may be severe enough to be debilitating; if this level of pain occurs, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent worsening of the injury. Nerve damage can also lead to pain, both dull and sharp, as can circulatory problems. Muscle strains and tears can cause pain that may also be debilitating.

A person with a fractured leg.
A person with a fractured leg.

A bone fracture occurs when the bone tissue cracks, usually due to an impact or twisting motion. Some minor fractures, known as hairline fractures, are not exceptionally serious conditions and will often heal on their own given enough rest. They can become worse, however, so it is important to immobilize the fractured bone and seek medical attention. More serious fractures can be exceptionally painful, leading to overwhelming sharp leg pain. Severe fractures can lead to other damage in surrounding tissues; torn muscles, damaged nerves, and circulatory problems can all arise as a result of a severe fracture.

Physical activity, such as hiking, may cause sharp leg pains.
Physical activity, such as hiking, may cause sharp leg pains.

Strained or torn muscles can also lead to sharp leg pain. A strain occurs when the tiny fibers that make up a muscle begin to tear due to overuse or stretching beyond the muscle's means. Strains can be painful, and they will require rest in order to heal properly. A torn muscle, or rupture, occurs when the muscle separates entirely from the tendons or from itself. This is an even more painful condition that can lead to sharp leg pain, and medical attention will be necessary to address this serious issue.

Neurological problems can lead to sharp leg pain, and there is sometimes an underlying cause of the nerve issue. When nerves become compressed, the area of the body that the nerve services is likely to experience some sort of pain, numbness, or tingling. It is even possible to lose motor control altogether. Medical attention will be necessary, especially if the sharp leg pain is prolonged or recurring. Herniated discs in the spine can lead to such neurological issues, as can a condition known as sciatica, in which the sciatic nerve that runs through each leg becomes compressed. Fibromyalgia may also lead to such pain, and this much larger issue must be treated by a doctor.

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