Leg Pain can manifest anywhere from the spine, buttock and leg, down to the toes – see figure #1.
What is it?
Leg pain, tingling, numbness or weakness that travels from the low back through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. The vast majority of people who experience leg pain get better with time (usually a few weeks or months) and find pain relief with non-surgical treatment such as chiropractic.
Leg pain, tingling or numbness is referred to as a “radiculopathy”, which often occurs when a disc has protruded from its normal position in the vertebral column and is putting pressure on the radicular nerve (nerve root) in the lower back, which forms part of the sciatic nerve.
Leg Pain, tingling or numbness occurs most frequently in people between 30 and 50 years of age. Often a particular event or injury does not cause symptoms in the leg, but rather they tend to develop as a result of general wear and tear on the structures of the lower spine. Low back pain can also arise with leg pain, or niggles in the low back can mean that the disc is tearing – see figure #2 – which could lead to leg pain.
For some people, the pain from radicular irritation can be severe and debilitating. For others, the pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.
Symptoms can vary from minor pins and needles in a couple of toes, to weakness in some of the foot muscles such that your foot ‘slaps’ on the floor when you walk. You might experience coldness in the leg, numbness in the leg or foot or buttock pain.
Radicular pain usually only involves one leg, however, it sometimes can irritate both legs if the disc bulge is more in the middle. This type of disc bulge or herniation can rarely give rise to bowel or bladder problems meaning you want to pass urine but you can’t or you have numbness round the genital area. These symptoms are serious and should be discussed immediately with your GP or Chiropractor.
While leg pain can be very painful, it is rare that permanent nerve damage (tissue damage) will result. Most leg pain syndromes result from inflammation and will get better within two weeks to a few months. Also, because the spinal cord is not present in the lower (lumbar) spine, a herniated disc in this area of the anatomy does not present a danger of paralysis.