Leg pain could vary from a mild intermittent pain to a severe debilitating pain that may affect your day to day routine. Different patients feel it in many different ways. It could be called as aching, throbbing or burning and sometimes accompanies other symptoms such as leg numbness or weakness or a tingling sensation.
The pain could be a result of an injury or a trauma to the leg or sometime even because of problems on your lower back. This is the reason why your physician may also examine your lower back while you have complained of leg pain.Like already stated, leg pain manifests itself in different forms and is also accompanies by other symptoms. The most common forms of pain experienced are detailed below:
This is typical in cases where a nerve root in the lower spine is irritated and is the cause of the pain. This tends to be a severe, sometimes intolerable pain, commonly referred to as sciatica and is most often a shooting or a radiating pain that is felt from the lower back into the buttocks and sometimes into the legs and foot.
All of us have experienced numbness when our leg or foot falls asleep and then gradually returns to normal. When this is caused by a problem in the lower back, it can be extremely delimiting since it is almost always continuous. It can however range from a slight tingling feeling to complete numbness.
A weakness in muscles of the leg tends to interfere significantly with the movement of the leg. This weakening of muscles that allows a person to flex his ankle and toes, causing the person to drag the front of the foot while walking and to compensate for this fray by bending the knee to lift the foot higher than usual is called a foot drop. Patients suffering from foot drop have difficulty walking on their heels, flex their ankle or walk the usual heel to toe pattern.
This is usually felt in the area of the buttocks and is accompanied by some pain in the legs. Sometimes, it tends to shoot down the buttock and into the legs and is normally felt only on one side. This is typically a “Nerve Pain” and is commonly referred to as sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy. People suffering from this type of pain often find immediate relief with a light stretching routine.
If the pain in the leg drastically amplifies when sitting, standing or walking, it might indicate to a problem with a particular portion of your back. People suffering from spinal stenosis find relief when they lean forward and people suffering from claudication find relief as soon as they rest their legs.
Now that we have understood the types of leg pain one can experience, it is imperative to understand the lower back problems that could be the causes for this pain.
As a result of the natural ageing process, the intervertebral discs tend to lose water content and thus their flexibility. This can cause pain from the disc that might radiate down the legs. When lumbar degenerative disc disease presents with leg pain and/or foot pain, this is called “referred pain” which is dull and achy in nature. Sometimes, it can also be a shooting pain caused by a nerve root that is compressed by a degenerative disc.
When a disc herniates, it tends to press on the nerve root and cause radiating pain along the length of the sciatic nerve.
This refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back region caused by bone spurs or enlarged facet joints. This is often symptomized by sciatica – leg pain / radiating from the lower back to the leg / leg weakness or numbness. This usually occurs in older adults since this is a part of the ageing process of the spine.
This occurs when one vertebra in the spine slips forwards and rubs against the subsequent vertebra thereby compromising the natural structure of the spine, thereby affecting its stability and flexibility. The instability could cause a nerve impingement, leading to leg pain.
All symptoms of leg pain caused by the conditions listed above are often referred to as sciatica. This is because the pain often radiates along the sciatic nerve from the lower back down into the legs.
There are also other conditions like piriformis syndrome and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, that cause leg pain.
Hence, only a thorough investigation, considering the complete list of symptoms, their severity and longevity, frequency, and other studies like factors that influence the degree of pain are necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.