ZAP! ZING! What is That Shooting Pain in My Arms and Legs?

Updated: Sep 25


We've all been walking about our day, or at home cleaning the house and we all of a sudden bend over and get either that locking up sensation that sends you to the ground. Or you get a jolt of lightning down your arm or leg, sometimes up the neck to the head. It's scary, especially if you feel like you try to move and your back is spasming. This is where the story generally goes one of two ways, and that depends on how you learn about what's going on.

Some providers out there will take a picture and explain just how terrible your back is. "The back of an 80-year old," while talking to a 48-year old. It generates fear, frail thoughts, and beliefs that the body is weak.

Other providers will work around symptoms and understand that imaging and back pain don't exactly paint the perfect picture. What's actually happening?

Depending on sensation, you typically think nerve pain is associated with sharp and stabbing sensations, however you can also get weakness and sensation changes which can feel like static or just general loss of sensation. This is one way you can rule out if the feeling in your legs or arms is coming from the spine and potential nerve compression - which can be very serious. If you ever experience any loss of bowel/bladder control, sexual function changes, general sensation changes in the perineum/anus region talk to a healthcare professional. It's not embarrassing. Read up: Cauda Equina Syndrome & Tethered Cord Syndrome.

When it comes to the locking sensation I doubt you would be able to find any real studies on it, though it's widely reported. From a professional anecdote it often seems to be something like a quick movement or increased range of motion in a movement, with or without weights or load that causes it. I think there is too much of a stretch through the muscle spindles/GTO and all of the small muscles around the spine spasm and release. This could potentially cause a large soreness from the forceful contraction or actual micro-injuries that are slightly painful and linger for a few days. This is plenty of time for us to constantly think about the situation and magnify our symptoms, most times, just getting my patient's moving again and showing their bodies that it's not as scary out there as we let our minds think, they feel 100% better. Future research can only be so kind as to answer the question.


It's something to think about - we are our own worst enemy with symptom magnification and perseveration. If you happen to remember this while you're lying on our back, take some deep breaths, gently start rolling your hips in all directions and I imagine it'll pass. If you'd rather discuss this in person for free, we can definitely do that. You can set it up yourself here.



If you're looking for some relief for any TMJ pain or jaw discomfort, usually jaw pain on one side that sometimes includes ear pain too. Knee guides, sciatica, stiff lower back or middle back pain, shoulder pain.




Have you ever had pain shoot down your arms or legs?

  • Arms

  • Legs

  • Both





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