Causes of shooting pain down the leg include a damaged nerve or herniated spinal disc, notes Cleveland Clinic. This pain, also called radiculopathy, can be sharp, recurring and regular, or irregular.
A herniated disc is the result of one of the discs in the spine becoming damaged. When this occurs, the disc breaks open or bulges out from the vertebrae, explains WebMD. A herniated disc may not be painful unless it is pressing on a nerve, such as the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is the pain that travels down the sciatic nerve, according to Mayo Clinic. It occurs when the nerve becomes damaged as a result of compression, typically from a herniated spinal disc. The pressure causes shooting pain from the lower back down the leg. Sciatica usually only affects one side of the body.
Treatment for a herniated disc is bed rest, medication and physical therapy, reports the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Often, this is enough to ease the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Surgery is sometimes recommended if other treatments do not reduce or eliminate the pain.