Can Arthritis Cause Burning Pain In The Leg And Back?

Elder Nepalese woman doing circumambulations of the Boudha Stupa, Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal © by Wonderlane

Is It Arthritis That’s Causing Burning Pain In Your Leg(s) And Back?

You are not the only one suffering if you have burning pain in the leg(s) or back. Unfortunately, there are many others who are dealing with the same, or similar symptoms as you are.

Burning pain down the leg or in the back is generally a sign that the nerve(s) in the low back are irritated for  one or more reasons.

So, to answer the question as to whether or not arthritis can cause burning pain in the leg and back, the answer in the majority of cases is “no”. This is because arthritis is actually a condition of the joints and usually only causes joint pain and stiffness. Because it typically doesn’t affect nerves and muscles.

The pain that generally comes from arthritis is usually described as an “ache” or a “stiffness”. Many people feel the stiffness the most in the morning after having been immobile during sleep. But, your joints can also feel stiff throughout the day too. It’s just not as common.

The reason that arthritis pain is, for the most part, localized to 1 or more joints is because osteo-arthritis (rather than rheumatoid arthritis) develops when the lining of the bones inside the joints (cartilage) wears out. This lining acts as a “shock absorber” in the joint and lets the bones connect smoothly. The pain is then caused by two or more bones rubbing against the other(s) when there is little or no cartilage left .

However, if you do have arthritis or inflammation of the spinal joints, it can contribute indirectly to burning pain in the leg or back. This happens when a spinal joint becomes so inflammed that this inflammation causes irritation to one or more of the nerves as they come out of the spinal column. But, it’s probably not the main cause of your pain.

There are a couple of common causes of burning pain that shows up in the legs and back. The more serious condition is a bulging or herniated disc that is resting against a nerve root. But, in many cases, when a disc is involved there is also a very obvious weakness in some of the muscles in the leg or lower extremity.

And, when a nerve is involved, the burning pain usually goes directly down the back of the thigh (not the side) to the foot. It may also cross over to the side or top of the foot.

But, a more common cause of burning pain is tight and sore muscles. These also can cause burning pain in the legs and back. Having burning in your muscles can actually be caused by a host of different things.

Things like not drinking enough water, overuse syndromes, sedentary work and lifestyle habits, poor diet, etc. can all lead to or contribute to having burning muscles.

The best thing for you to do if you have back pain that you cannot account for is to go to your doctor for a check up and at least get an x-ray. A CT scan would be better. And, an MRI would be best. However, your doc will probably start with an x-ray and take it from there.

Here’s is a good rule of thumb that’s good to keep in mind when you’re dealing with back pain. It’s not meant to be 100% accurate though.

If you’re lifestyle is pretty active…I mean you are physically active everyday of the week and are doing lots of manual labor or physical recreation, there is a higher potential for more serious injuries like herniated discs and such.

However, if your lifestyle is pretty much sedentary…sure you may be running around taking the kids to soccer or running errands…but, you work in an office and you’re physical demands are limited, then, the more likely it is that you have some sore muscles that are giving you fits.

Still-Get checked out by a healthcare professional.


For peace of mind, remember, according to the majority of statistics, most cases of back pain are caused by muscular strains and not serious injuries or conditions. If you fall in with the majority, it’s probably muscle strain and not arthritis that’s the cause of burning pain in the leg and back.