Degenerative disc leg pain

Degenerative disc disease leg pain will most likely take the form of shooting pain that travels from your lower back, through your buttocks, down the back of the thigh and around the calf, often extending all the way into the toes. This shooting pain is commonly referred to as sciatica and often results from a compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine (lower back).

Sciatica and other symptoms caused by a degenerative disc in the lower back is a common condition for adults over the age of 50. As the spine ages, years of weight gain and repetitive motion wear down on the vertebrae and discs in the spine — particularly in the lumbar spine because it is responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight and movement. This constant compression can lead to a damaged disc that extends beyond the spinal cord and presses against the sciatic nerve, which originates in the lower back and extends into the legs.

If you are experiencing pain and discomfort in your lower back, buttocks, back of the thigh, calf and/or toes that lasts longer than one week, you should consult your physician to determine if you have sciatica due to a damaged lumbar disc. The sooner your condition is diagnosed, the sooner you can begin your journey to pain relief through conservative or surgical treatment.

Diagnosing degenerative disc and leg pain

Degenerative disc disease leg pain may have several causes, the most likely of which is a degenerative disc spine disorder that may include a herniated disc, bulging disc or thinning disc, arthritis, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis. When you see your physician about your degenerative disc pain, he or she will probably conduct a straight leg raise (SLR) test, which includes the following steps:

  1. You will lie down flat on your back.
  2. Your physician will then put one hand on the ankle of your affected leg and one hand under the knee.
  3. With your foot flexed, the doctor will slowly raise the leg so that it is about 30 degrees off the ground.
  4. If this produces pain in your lower back, your physician will proceed with further tests to confirm a diagnosis of sciatica due to intervertebral disc damage.

Once the condition has been diagnosed, you can begin a treatment regimen to help you find relief for your pain and symptoms.

Treatments for degenerative disc and leg pain

There are a variety of treatment options, not only for lower back disc pain but for all types of intervertebral disc pain. First, your physician will probably recommend a course of noninvasive, conservative therapy, which may include pain medication, chiropractic work, steroid injections and mild exercise.

If these prove ineffective, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures are designed to remove bits of disc material and other tissue pressing on spinal nerves. We perform all of our minimally invasive procedures through a small incision to reduce the risk of infection, scarring and tissue damage, making our treatments a safer, more effective option than traditional open back surgery.

Patients with a damaged disc in the lumbar spine will often undergo a minimally invasive discectomy, possibly coupled with a minimally invasive stabilization depending on the severity of the disc damage. The discectomy will remove either a small portion of the damaged disc or all of the damaged disc to relieve pressure on the nearby sciatic nerve and reduce pain. If the entire disc is removed, the surgeon will stabilize the spine by inserting an artificial disc into the empty disc space. This allows a more natural healing process than traditional open back fusion, which uses a metal cage and rods to fuse together the two vertebrae surrounding the damaged disc.

If you are suffering from sciatica pain, it’s time for you to take the next step on your journey to pain relief. Contact our spine care experts at Laser Spine Institute to review your MRI report or CT scan and help you decide if our minimally invasive procedures are right for you.